In 2017, the Environment & Resources Authority (ERA) had requested an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in accordance with the then Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations, 2007 (LN 114 of 2007 as amended). Following the submission and review of the EIA Report, ERA issued its Assessment and Recommendations along with the development conditions in August 2018.
The Planning Authority’s decision on the development consent was appealed by third parties before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal (EPRT) (Appeal No 149/19). The EPRT decision upheld limitedly the third party appeal and referred the acts back to the ERA for resubmission of the EIA Report, following which ERA requested the applicant to rectify the situation in accordance with the said Decision, and to resubmit the EIA Report. In this regard, the EIA Report was resubmitted to ERA on 15 February 2021 and assessed. This assessment takes into account the conclusions of the EIA Report, as well as the comments received from the public concerned following a 30-day public consultation and a public hearing.
The main points of concern relate to impacts on land use, landscape character and visual amenity, mainly due to the proposed construction of the residential clusters in the western part of the island, with their associated increase in urban mass and density. In addition, impacts on cultural heritage features, both terrestrial and underwater, have been identified, mainly due to the potential risk of removal of or disturbance to unknown heritage features, and due to vibrations generated during excavation works. In terms of emissions, increased emissions of particulate matter from vehicular traffic during operations are envisaged for the area of the Gzira promenade, which would require the implementation of a green travel plan. With respect to ecological features, this assessment sets forward the need for proper safeguards with respect to the protected marine species, including the proper phasing of marine works, the use of silt curtains and the complete avoidance of vessels and barges passing in the vicinity of the area in which the protected Maltese top shell (Steromphala nivosa) was recorded, together with monitoring of water and sediment quality and the biological attributes during all phases of the development.
In the light of the findings of the assessment and overall considerations, and taking into account the context of the area and the Development Brief (Government of Malta, 1992) for the site in subject, ERA does not object to the proposal from an environmental point of view. The Authority however, put forward that waste management (including the processing of dredged material), landscaping and the architectural design of the proposed building clusters are considered as reserved matters.
The Final Assessment was referred to the ERA Board for a decision in public in line with the EIA Regulations (S.L. 549.46). The ERA Board voted in favour on the 04th June 2021 whilst also taking note of a request to provide facilities for education on biodiversity in the area which will necessitate further evaluation at a later stage.