St Ge­orge’s Park rep­re­sen­ta­tives cry foul on land use re­stric­tions

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - Kevin Schem­bri Or­land

Through their pre­lim­i­nary sum­mary of con­cerns on the Paceville mas­ter plan sub­mit­ted to the En­vi­ron­ment and De­vel­op­ment Plan­ning Com­mit­tee, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of St Ge­orge’s Park Co Ltd have ar­gued that the pro­posed mas­ter plan im­poses re­stric­tions on pri­vately owned property which cre­ate sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems in terms of the fi­nan­cial and eco­nomic sus­tain­abil­ity of the project.

Com­pany sources have con­firmed that the orig­i­nal plan for the site was to re-de­velop ex­ist­ing build­ings so as to cre­ate a des­ti­na­tion that would in­cor­po­rate a di­verse self-con­tained com­mu­nity hav­ing ex­ist­ing multi-uses, in­clud­ing but not lim­ited to com­mer­cial premises, of­fices, ho­tels, res­i­den­tial units and leisure fa­cil­i­ties. The ob­jec­tive of the phased-project, sources said, “was to fur­ther en­hance the his­toric land­mark sta­tus of the area by the cre­ation of build­ings of ar­chi­tec­tural qual­ity”.

In their sub­mit­ted doc­u­ment, St Ge­orge’s Park ar­gues that “the long-term suc­cess of the en­tire Paceville Project will de­pend on each of the de­vel­op­ments fea­tured in the mas­ter plan re­main­ing fi­nan­cially sus­tain­able over time”.

The pro­posed mas­ter plan, how­ever, re­stricts the use of the St Ge­orge’s Park site to mainly of­fice use since the res­i­den­tial el­e­ment is al­ready com­mit­ted to ex­ist­ing third party-owned res­i­den­tial property. The doc­u­ment sub­mit­ted by St Ge­orge’s Park Co high­lights how this re­stric­tion neg­a­tively im­pacts the sus­tain­abil­ity of the project since it lim­its fu­ture-proof­ing.

Sources from St Ge­orge’s Park said that the re­stric­tion also con­trasts with the flex­i­bil­ity af­forded to other de­vel­op­ments in the area.

The doc­u­ment sub­mit­ted by the St Ge­orge’s Park rep­re­sen­ta­tives also al­leges the dis­crim­i­na­tory stance of the mas­ter plan. The plan, rec­om­mends the re­moval of cer­tain obli­ga­tions/de­valu­ing con­di­tions (such as a ma­jor pub­lic pi­azza) im­posed in the 2005 MEPA De­vel­op­ment Brief which con­di­tioned the Call for Of­fers at the time the Mer­cury House site was sold, and on the other side, it sug­gests the ex­pro­pri­a­tion of pri­vately-owned St Ge­orge’s Park land, which cur­rently in­cludes ho­tel ameni­ties, com­mer­cial out­lets and other go­ing con­cerns, to ac­com­mo­date the same pub­lic pi­azza. “In other words, what the mas­ter plan is propos­ing has the ef­fect of re­mov­ing re­stric­tions (at no com­pen­sa­tion to the gov­ern­ment) from pre­vi­ously owned pub­lic property that was sold to pri­vate busi­nesses with cer­tain con­di­tions, and in turn, grab­bing pri­vate property and wip­ing out long es­tab­lished busi­nesses to re­place the afore­men­tioned pub­lic property,” the sources ar­gued.

The sub­mis­sion doc­u­ment also refers to traf­fic al­le­vi­a­tion mea­sures. Ac­cord­ing to the St Ge­orge’s Park pre­lim­i­nary sub­mis­sions, in­stead of ren­der­ing cars un­ob­tru­sive through suf­fi­cient un­der­ground park­ing spa­ces on site and the cre­ation of an un­der­ground tun­nel (which was dis­carded in the Con­sul­tant’s pre­ferred op­tion num­ber 3), the mas­ter plan ad­vo­cates the use of Park and Ride fa­cil­i­ties, which ac­cord­ing to St Ge­orge’s Park can­not real­is­ti­cally be con­sid­ered to be ap­pro­pri­ate for an up-mar­ket res­i­den­tial / busi­ness / ho­tel des­ti­na­tion whose pa­trons de­mand easy on-site ac­cess.

St Ge­orge’s Park rep­re­sen­ta­tives have also made it clear that their project never in­cor­po­rated any ex­pro­pri­a­tion, in any form or man­ner, of third-party owned property.

The pro­posed mas­ter plan, how­ever, re­stricts the use of the St Ge­orge’s Park site to mainly of­fice use since the res­i­den­tial el­e­ment is al­ready com­mit­ted to ex­ist­ing third par­ty­owned res­i­den­tial property.

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