‘The Paceville master plan must be sent back to the drawing board’ – Carmel Cacopardo
AD Deputy Chairperson Carmel Cacopardo believes that the Paceville master plan must be sent back to the drawing board and respect laws previously passed by the House of Parliament.
Speaking during a parliamentary committee meeting last night, Mr Cacopardo said that the master plan calls Paceville a prime coastal location, yet seems to ignore recent legislation regarding coastal areas. The AD Deputy Chairperson was referring to the 15m coastal perimeter, and the foreshore which is public domain. He said that substantial parts of use of the coast in the plan, including parts given through an emphyteusis to third parties, conflict with laws in this regard.
“This is not a law that was approved through a one vote difference, it was unanimously approved. I expect you know what you are doing when voting, or at least most of the time. This means that the consultants who drew up this plan, did not pay attention to public policy that was clear before the master plan was presented. This means that whoever gave direction to the consultants, at some point either did not inform them, or informed them and it was ignored.
“This is central to the whole issue. We cannot have Parliament giving a clear policy direction, and some months after approval, have it ridiculed through a master plan like this”.
He also said that this part of the coast, is used by many for watersports. “I only found one reference to sports in the master plan. It does not pay attention to the face that there are windsurfing issues, diving, water-skiing etc, used by Maltese and tourists alike. As we know, diving is a niche tourism area.
“I think the master plan is ignoring the use of the area, and this is also reflected in the issue of land reclamation”. He said that there is no need of land reclamation, or the need for so many high rise buildings.
“We need to make use of the empty properties around the island. I think this master plan should go back to the drawing board, so that the most basic things voted on in Parliament be adhered to”.
On behalf of the Planning Authority, Executive Chairman Johan Buttigieg said that there is coastal access around the whole area. “This is a public consultation and if there are issues with public domain, submit your issues”. Regarding water sports, he said that by expanding the beach it will help facilitate activities.
Dr Noel Buttigieg Scicluna, a St George’s Park resident, said that St George’s Bay is the fulcrum of the centre of Paceville. “The bay is enjoyed by everyone. Onefourth of it is known as Cresta Quay. I would like to invite you to come, physically, and see Cresta Quay and its footprint. My question is, can you tell me what value added from an environment and aesthetic aspect, through the suggestion in the master plan that a 30 storey tower be plonked on the side, can be seen?”
Johan Buttigieg, in response, said that the master plans saw how the massing in the whole area would be affected and not a particular zone. “In the opinion of the experts, they believed that development should occur there. We have no problem questioning the experts”.
PN MP Ryan Callus said that it wouldn’t cost too much to create a visual model of how the area would look like during the consultation period.
Mr Johan Buttigieg said that he will look and see if it can be done within a week or two. He also stressed that this is the first draft of the plan, and said that it most likely won’t be the last one. Mr Buttigieg also said that the consultants look at the ideal site, and as such this does not mean things can’t move a bit.
Garnet Investments Ltds’ (owner of Cresta Quay) Anton Camilleri said that where Mr Buttigieg Scicluna lives is in a high building. He said that the sports facilities will form part of the hotel. “Maybe it is because his view will be ruined?” He stressed that the Cresta Quay development shown on the master plan was not his development proposal, and he would need to conduct studies to see what needs to be done.
The Committee agreed that a number of documents be presented by the experts who drew up the plan. PN MP George Pullicino said that a representative of those who drew up the plan should be brought before the committee, and the committee agreed.
President of the Tourism, Hospitality and Leisure Sector of the GRTU Philip Fenech spoke of the need to be careful and not break the economic environment there. “I want the experts to explain, from all aspects, why certain streets will make certain areas more accessible than others etc”. He said that some parts will integrate well with the plan, while others will be eliminated. Where it is possible for them to integrate, then they should be, he said, explaining that there will be certain persons literally put out of business overnight. He said that those who will be affected negatively should be given adequate compensation.
The Chamber of Architects has established a working group to look into the plan, a representative said.
Following questions by a Front Harsien ODZ representative, the PA failed to say how much government would need to pay to regenerate Paceville. They said the master plan mentions EU funds, yet it is still too early to state the financial proportions of each party.
FAA’s Tara Cassar asked if there were any plans for a yacht marina, to which Mr Johan Buttigieg said that there aren’t any seen in the master plan.
A DLH representative asked for the public consultation timeframe to be extended, given its importance. PL MP Franco Mercieca said that the Committee will discuss the possibility among themselves. PN MP Marthese Portelli said that extending the period makes sense given the lack of information needed for a proper consultation, such as figures regarding the land reclamation, etc. The DLH representative said that more consideration should have been given to residents in the area, and PN MP George Pullicino agreed.
Issues regarding expropriation
PN MP Marthese Portelli said that through the master plan, there will be people who will end up out of a home through road developments etc. What kind of compensation will be given to them, she asked.
In response, A GPD official explained that a requisition order will be made, and the value will be established as is in the law.
“What worries me is that a number of expropriations will occur, which would mean a large amount of funds to be paid by the Lands Department,” PN MP Marthese Portelli said.
“I believe that calculating these workings is crucial. You cannot have an elderly woman end up on the street unable to buy another home. These are concerns that, while it is good that one has the master plan, must be considered now so that everyone would end up ok”.
Another GPD official said that the criteria relating to values is clear in law, and that financial estimates cannot be given until the plan has been presented. Expropriation can only happen for public interest, he explained.