Pro­posed lat­eral ex­ten­sion at Mrieħel tow­ers ap­proved

● PA board mem­bers stress need for master plan

Malta Independent - - NEWS - Kevin Schem­bri Or­land

A pro­posed lat­eral ex­ten­sion to one of the Quad Busi­ness high­rise tow­ers in Mrieħel was ap­proved by the Plan­ning Author­ity Board yes­ter­day, while mem­bers high­lighted the need for some sort of master plan for the area given the ef­fects on the sky­line of de­vel­op­ment in the area.

In Au­gust 2016, the Plan­ning Author­ity ap­proved a con­tro­ver­sial ap­pli­ca­tion by Tu­mas and Gasan hold­ings, who in­tended to in­vest €70 mil­lion in the con­struc­tion of four tow­ers in Mrieħel. The tow­ers will be cen­tred around a pi­azza. The orig­i­nal ap­pli­ca­tion’s to­tal floorspace to be de­vel­oped stood at 41,715 square me­tres. The to­tal pro­posed de­vel­opable gross floorspace above street level of the whole pro­posed de­vel­op­ment as per this re­cent ap­pli­ca­tion is now 50,977 square me­tres ex­clud­ing ter­races and bridges, ac­cord­ing to the case of­fi­cer’s re­port.

The ap­pli­cant’s ar­chi­tect stressed that through this lat­est ap­pli­ca­tion, the heights have not changed and that the lat­eral ex­ten­sion is be­low the top floors of the build­ing. He also said that some of the changes are ar­chi­tec­tural.

“The pro­posal in­volves rel­a­tively mi­nor changes to the con­fig­u­ra­tion of the north, west and south tow­ers and mainly af­fects the plan vol­ume of the east tower. While all four tow­ers re­main with sim­i­lar build­ing heights as pre­vi­ously ap­proved, the pro­posal in­volves an ad­di­tional site area of circa 1,200 square me­tres to be de­vel­oped into a ter­raced ex­ten­sion of the east tower with buf­fer zones and land­scap­ing along the ad­ja­cent third par­ties,” the case of­fi­cer’s re­port reads.

The case of­fi­cer notes that the ex­ten­sion of the east tower is lo­cated be­hind the mass of the same tower when viewed from Md­ina or Val­letta. Thus, since the in­crease in area is lo­cated in the line of view from Md­ina to Val­letta, the pro­posed in­crease in mass will be hid­den by the pre­vi­ously ap­proved mass of the east tower, the re­port reads. “All edges are rounded in plan to as­sist in min­imis­ing the im­pact of the mass of the build­ing and the con­cept of per­me­abil­ity of the orig­i­nal project is main­tained. The re­port con­cludes that the pro­posal does not change the in­tro­duced and es­tab­lished ur­ban qual­i­ties and char­ac­ter ap­praisal of the pre­vi­ously ap­proved de­vel­op­ment.”

The ar­chi­tect noted that the Quad Tow­ers are aim­ing for plat­inum certification, which would rank it among the top one per­cent of all LEED cer­ti­fied projects. “LEED is an in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized green build­ing certification sys­tem, pro­vid­ing third-party ver­i­fi­ca­tion that a build­ing or com­mu­nity was de­signed and built us­ing strate­gies aimed at im­prov­ing per­for­mance across all the met­rics that mat­ter most: en­ergy sav­ings, wa­ter ef­fi­ciency, CO2 emis­sions re­duc­tion, im­proved in­door en­vi­ron­men­tal qual­ity, and stew­ard­ship of re­sources and sen­si­tiv­ity to their im­pacts,” the case of­fi­cer’s re­port ex­plains.

The ar­chi­tect said that the num­ber of park­ing spa­ces to be pro­vided are above what is re­quired by pol­icy. In­creased traf­fic gen­er­a­tion through the project is con­sid­ered to be low, the board heard.

En­vi­ron­ment and Re­sources Author­ity chair­man Vic­tor As­ciak high­lighted the need for a master plan for the Mrieħel area, sim­i­lar to what was pre­vi­ously pro­posed for Paceville, to see how projects ef­fect the sky­line. He said that this should be part of the Plan­ning Author­ity’s re­spon­si­bil­ity. He com­pli­mented the de­sign of the project, how­ever high­lighted the need for ev­ery­thing to be seen holis­ti­cally.

Plan­ning Author­ity Board chair­man Vince Cas­sar noted that the dif­fer­ence be­tween Paceville and Mrieħel was that there were many more ap­pli­ca­tions in Paceville, to which As­ciak said that at the very least there should be one to take the sky­line in Mrieħel into con­sid­er­a­tion. Na­tion­al­ist Party MP Marthese Portelli who sits on the board agreed with As­ciak that the Plan­ning Author­ity should be proac­tive, as this would even help de­vel­op­ers know what is and what is not pos­si­ble. She voted in favour of the ex­ten­sion but stressed the need for a plan for the area. The NGO’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive also backed the need for a master plan. Labour Party rep­re­sen­ta­tive Clay­ton Bar­tolo also said that the master plan was a good point.

The Plan­ning Di­rec­torate pro­posed that the plan­ning gain for this ap­pli­ca­tion be €231,550, thus the to­tal Plan­ning Gain for the whole project (in­clud­ing the pre­vi­ously ap­proved ap­pli­ca­tion) would amount to €425,941.

The ap­pli­cant’s ar­chi­tect, how­ever, ar­gued that in the orig­i­nal ap­proved ap­pli­ca­tion, the ap­pli­cant could have built up to 46,586 square me­tres but opted to ap­ply for less (41,715sqm) for vis­ual con­sid­er­a­tion, and for the plan­ning gain to be re­duced. The ar­chi­tect asked that the new amount up to the 46,586 square me­tres (aka 4,871sqm) which was not built be con­sid­ered un­der the old plan­ning gain mech­a­nism which was in place at the time of the first ap­pli­ca­tion, which was far less than the cur­rent cal­cu­la­tion. The cur­rent mech­a­nism is cal­cu­lated as €25 mul­ti­plied by floor area, whereas the old mech­a­nism was €4.66 mul­ti­plied by floor area. His pro­posal was that the rest of the amount, be­tween 46,586sqm up to 50,977sqm re­mains be­ing con­sid­ered un­der the new mech­a­nism. This would mean that the plan­ning gait for to­day’s ap­pli­ca­tion would be €132, 473, not €231,550.

The ap­pli­cant’s re­quest was not ac­cepted and the €231,550 plan­ning gain for this ap­pli­ca­tion was im­posed.

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