The Planning Authority has approved the revised Masterplan for the restoration and development of Manoel Island. This approval follows the consent given by the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) for the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) for the same development on 4th June 2021.
MIDI CEO, Mark Portelli, welcomed the approval of the Masterplan, which will revive Manoel Island and give it a new lease of life. He said that “The Masterplan aims to preserve the heritage buildings while creating a new destination for the benefit of residents and visitors alike.”
The decision to revise the Masterplan is a result of two years of site investigations carried out, under the supervision of an independent Archaeologist approved by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage (SCH), which established that a large part of the site, which was previously earmarked for development, is of an archaeological importance.
The approved Masterplan contemplates that the footprint of the new buildings to be developed on Manoel Island be scaled down to cover approximately 10% of MIDI’s concession, while the gross floor area of the new buildings will total 55,000sqm compared to the 95,000sqm as contemplated in the Deed of Emphyteusis entered into with Government. The height of the new buildings is limited to four-floors with extended ground floor heights in order to provide for commercial units along a restricted area.
The approved Masterplan aims to create a more sustainable development, which boasts a pedestrian priority development including 175,000sqm of public open space (equivalent to twenty-two football pitches). This makes it approximately nine times larger than the neighbouring Gzira Gardens and over five times larger than the Sant'Antnin Family Park.
One of the key improvements of the approved Masterplan is the extent of the public open spaces. These include an 80,000sqm Glacis Park surrounding Fort Manoel, which will be transformed into a public park where families can picnic, go for walks, or simply enjoy the peace and tranquillity that this destination offers. The archaeological sites have also contributed to creating an additional 35,000sqm public open space in the heart of the development, which extends from the entrance of the Island to the Lazzaretto quay. This will be partly landscaped and partly paved to create a plaza centred around the Customs House and the Cattle Shed providing a destination for the enjoyment of the public.
To ensure that the rights of the public are safeguarded, the Gzira Local Council and MIDI have established the Manoel Island Foundation with the specific purpose of acting as guardian on matters of public interest, including access to the foreshore, the protection of the heritage buildings and the provision of public open spaces.
Apart from the reduction in the area to be developed, the approved Masterplan does not contemplate the reclamation of the sea area immediately in front of the Gzira promenade. Mr. Portelli explained that “A decision was taken to eliminate the land reclamation, as contemplated in the Deed, in order to reduce the impact of the development on the marine environment and the Gzira community.”
The approved Masterplan has also revised plans for the existing yacht marina. Protection will now be provided by a floating breakwater thus mitigating the environmental impact associated with developing a solid breakwater.
In accordance with the provisions of the Deed, no effort has been spared to ensure that all the heritage buildings will be restored. The restoration of the heritage buildings will be undertaken at an estimated cost of more than €40 million, which includes the works already undertaken to restore Fort Manoel to its former glory.
Furthermore, MIDI will develop facilities for the benefit of the local community. The facilities include a full-size football pitch for Gzira United FC and a Bocci Club. Furthermore, the existing slipway will be upgraded for the benefit of the local fishing and boating community as well as water sports enthusiasts.
In conclusion, Mr. Portelli said that “as a responsible developer MIDI will continue to work closely and transparently with all stakeholders, by listening, engaging, and providing updates throughout the project, thereby ensuring the delivery of significant benefits to the community for the long term.”