Villa Rosa project ‘should not be considered without a master plan’ – Opposition MPs

Opposition MPs from St Julian’s’ electoral district have come out against the Villa Rosa mega-development, stating that “a development of that size and magnitude should not be considered by the Planning Authority without a master plan in place” when contacted by The Shift.

The Villa Rosa mega-development slated for St George’s Bay in St Julian’s as proposed would comprise a 34-storey tower, two 27-storey towers and a hotel, all abutting the bay and its popular beach.

Several NGOs have opposed the “atrocious” development, and ADPD has called it “one of the worst examples of coastal commercialisation”.

Mark Anthony Sammut, Joe Giglio, Graham Bencini and Albert Buttigieg are the opposition MPs who represent the 10th electoral district comprising St Julian’s, Sliema, Swieqi, Pembroke, Naxxar and Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq.

In their joint response to The Shift’s questions, the opposition MPs observed how the proposed Villa Rosa development “has once again brought the much-needed master plan for Paceville back to the fore.”

A holistic view of proposed megadevelopments in St. Julian's - Photo: ERA

A holistic view of the many proposed mega-developments in St Julian’s, showing the Villa Rosa project looming over the bay. Photo: ERA

They called for the Planning Authority to “engage in a meaningful public consultation process with the St Julian’s, Swieqi and Pembroke local councils” and to “take into consideration the needs and concerns of residents of the neighbouring localities who are already enduring major inconveniences caused by the rampant overdevelopment in the area.”

“The Planning Authority,” they said, “should not allow this to be a repeat of other projects where the business interests of a select few prevailed over the interests of residents.”

Swieqi Mayor Noel Muscat has also opposed the project, calling it a “misfit” and “totally out of proportion for the location,” in comments to The Shift.

Muscat said that “the project must be considered in context”, lamenting that the valley and surrounding roads have already “been raped by monstrous developments”.

He also called for studies into the area’s carrying capacity, saying that “no more [tourism] beds should be built before this study is carried out”.

He lamented how the problematic 2016 Paceville master plan” failed so miserably that it was totally discarded. Since then, massive properties have been built with no open spaces at all.”

According to Muscat, “The whole of Malta needs a master plan. Until then, we need a planning authority that acts like a decent planning authority. Above all, we need a government that governs.”

The developers behind the Villa Rosa project argue that the development will contribute additional open space to the area, given that according to the latest plans, around 41% of the developable land is built up. Roughly a third of the remaining open space, 11,000 square metres of 29,000, will be a publicly accessible piazza.

They say the addition of a service road which will go through the project will alleviate some of the traffic congestion issues in the area, both during and after the construction phase.

The proposed Villa Rosa project will impact surrounding localities such as Pembroke, as seen in this impression. Photo: ERA

In earlier comments to The Shift, NGO Moviment Graffitti, like Muscat, highlighted the need for a master plan “designed around the interests of the people, not a developers’ wish-list” and called for a nationwide moratorium on large-scale projects and high-rise buildings until a national master plan is drawn up.

The opposition MPs’ statement and Muscat’s response also echoed comments given to The Shift by NGO Din L-Art Ħelwa’s president and university architecture faculty dean, Prof. Alex Torpiano, who has called the lack of infrastructural and logistical planning preceding the project “a case of putting the cart before the horse”.

Torpiano also pointed out that the Malta Tourism Authority projections of “three million tourists a year by 2030” figure being used as justification for the project’s necessity conflicts with a 2021 MHRA-Deloitte study that concluded almost five million would be needed for all existing and planned tourism developments at the time to achieve a mere 80% occupancy rate.

The Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association also recently opposed the project, taking issue with the project overshadowing the tourist area and its beach, saying it is concerned “as long as there are shadows over St George’s Bay”.

A render of the proposed project’s shadows on St George’s Bay at 6pm in June. Photo: ERA

Villa Rosa site owner Garnet Investments (Anton Camilleri known as Tal-Franċiz) has meanwhile “strongly rejected” the MHRA’s assessment, arguing that, in summer, the bay would only start seeing shadows after 4pm.

The company also expressed “surprise” at the MHRA’s reaction to the project since, it said, it “will strongly contribute to Malta’s touristic product”.

An Environmental Impact Assessment report published on 20 March by the Environment and Resources Authority concluded that the project would have temporary or permanent adverse effects in all 38 types of impacts studied.

That  EIA also found that while shadows from the development would start hitting beach at 4pm, initially covering about 50% of its sandy area, by 6pm in summer, the beach would be entirely shaded by the towers.

Requests for comment sent by The Shift to 10th District government MPs – Ministers Michael Falzon and Clifton Grima – remain unanswered.


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Francis Said
Francis Said
1 month ago

It is no surprise that Government MPs did not have the guts to give their opinion on the monstrosities proposed. I wonder why!!!

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