NGOs Din L-Art Ħelwa and Moviment Graffitti have joined public opposition to the Villa Rosa megaproject, which will see 34 and 27-storey buildings towering over St. George’s Bay in St. Julian’s following a damning environmental impact assessment published on 10 March.
The Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) assessment concluded that the project would have temporary or permanent negative effects in all 38 different types of impact surveyed, including effects on land, sea, water, visual landscape, ecology, air quality and cultural heritage.
Answering questions sent by The Shift, NGO Moviment Graffitti said they are “strongly against” the project, saying it is “beyond belief” that it was marketed as ‘sustainable’ and criticising its “atrocious visual impact”.
Din L-Art Ħelwa president and Architecture Faculty Dean Alex Torpiano criticised the lack of a cohesive tourism and transport model, calling the project “a case of the cart pulling the horse”.
The Villa Rosa towers developed by Anton Camilleri’s Garnet Investments will feature 34 and 27-storey towers with 789 serviced apartments and 247 hotel rooms, occupying 237,316 sqm of land, roughly the size of 33 football fields if approved.
The project, PA/07254/22, is an extensively altered version of another development in the same area approved in 2018.
Torpiano, on behalf of DLĦ, pointed out discrepancies between the projected 2 million ‘high-end tourists’ per year in Malta by 2030, being used as justification for the project, and the recent MHRA-Deloitte study’s conclusions which require almost 5 million tourists per year to achieve an 80% occupancy rate for current and projected hotels.
Torpiano also questioned whether “our infrastructure can even absorb the 2 million tourists we are currently targeting” with Moviment Graffitti, in a separate response, similarly criticising the project’s “immense pressure on an already strained infrastructure”.
Torpiano said, “our first reservation about this particular project is whether the tourism model underpinning it is really sound”, questioning whether ‘high-end tourists’ would even want to stay at such “luxurious” accommodations rather than smaller, more traditional and uniquely Maltese ones.
When asked about the project’s recently publicised public plaza and LEED sustainability certification, Torpiano said that while important, “the greater questions of sustainability are about the wider issues of our carrying capacity, including of the tourism industry”, with Moviment Graffitti saying that it is “beyond belief to think that this project could ever be seen as a sustainable one, even if certified by LEED”.
In feedback before the project’s EIA, environmental NGO BirdLife Malta raised concerns about the project’s proximity and partial overlap on an Area of Ecological Importance and a Site of Specific Interest, the Ħarq Ħammiem valley and cave system, respectively.
In its feedback, BirdLife Malta said the height of the buildings is “of major concern”. It mentioned additional issues of light pollution, shadowing, trampling, geological and effects on the waterways in the valley.
The organisation also raised concerns about the shrinkage of the ecological corridor connecting the two sites, saying that “any area would rather benefit from remaining in a natural state than being extensively landscaped”.
BirdLife said “the fact that the area is heavily disturbed by various developments should not be used as a justification” to avoid minimising all possible impacts on the area, raising serious concerns about the “cumulative impact of this development vis-a-vis other already-approved developments”.
The Villa Rosa megaproject joins the controversial DB Group project, which would be situated immediately to its north, the “cheese grater” 33-storey tower by Paul Xuereb’s PX Lettings just up the road, and Joseph Portelli’s in-construction Mercury Towers a few hundred meters away.
PN MP Albert Buttigieg likened the amassing developments to Dubai’s megadevelopments, notoriously suffering from severe infrastructural issues, saying, “would all these developments amassed into one area degenerate the area further? Why turn the area into a favela which, although an expensive one, remains a favela” in a Facebook post on 13 March.
In their more recent responses, DLĦ and Moviment Graffitti have similarly called for more holistic planning approaches, with Torpiano saying that the project “is bound to have a major impact on the whole tourism industry”.
Moviment Graffitti also demanded any proposals for a Paceville Masterplan to be “designed around the interests of the people, not a developers’ wish list”, calling for “a nationwide moratorium on large-scale projects and high-rise buildings until a national masterplan has been drawn”.
The Villa Rosa project is currently concluding its Environmental Impact Assessment, with ERA accepting consultation submissions on the published report until 11 April.
Silvio has his office wink wink?
The uglfification of Malta continues, unless this planning is stopped, it would set another example of monstrous, unfitting buildings to further manifestate the gigantomania and megalomania that goes along with this building craze that destroys Malta.
Just to imagine 5 million tourists per year, which is even slightly beyond the ten-fold of today’s total population of Malta.