The Malta Independent 12 December 2018, Wednesday

KA says it had given Augustinian order original report on proposed Paceville development

Thursday, 11 October 2018, 17:04 Last update: about 2 months ago

The Church’s environment commission (KA) had sent its original report on the planned extension of the Bay Street hotel to the Augustinian Order on 1 August, a spokesperson has told The Malta Independent.

The Curia was replying to questions sent by this newspaper after the provincial of the Augustinian order claimed, on a radio show last week, that the order had not been provided with the final document before its publication.

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It was revealed earlier this year that the land which has been used as a makeshift car park is to be rented out to the owners of the Bay Street Complex, and will be developed by Bay Street Holdings, whose owners include George Muscat of GAP Holdings, and Paul Camilleri. The size of the area is approximately 2,260 square metres, and the plans are to build a 12-storey four-star accommodation building and office complex, including 246 underground parking spaces.

Last Saturday, Prior Provincial for the Maltese Augustinians Father Leslie Gatt spoke on Andrew Azzopardi's Radju Malta show Ghandi Xi Nghid and stated that he first heard about the report from the SMS sent to him by Azzopardi.

"I did not receive that report yesterday. I saw it on a number of media outlets, and I do not think I should comment on it since I have not had a chance to go through it."

Answering questions sent by this newsroom, the KA said that it sent its original report to the Augustinian Oder on 1 August, and a meeting was held on 4 August with representatives of the same Order. The report was then amended after the Order sent comments to the KA on 31 August.

It said, “The report has now been published in full together with an addendum which makes reference to fresh plans that were submitted after the original report was sent to the Order. The fresh plans are not materially different from the original plans that were discussed with the Order on 4 August.”

With regards to who was consulted to conduct this report, the report itself says that “in drawing up its opinion, the KA consulted with Dr John Ebejer, an urban planner and architect with 24 years of experience in the public and private sector”.

“This was done to ensure an independent and unbiased approach since the Church Environment Commission was reporting on a project by a religious order. As it has always done before, the KA based its analysis of the proposed project on publicly available development application documents.”

Gatt said that according to the proposal, only half of the available land would be built up. This was being done to leave a large open space and so that the new building would not be so close to the chapel and convent. The deal, he said, would regenerate a plot of land that had lain unused for 15 years. It would bring more people near the chapel, provide parking, provide for restoration and provide financial income for the order.

Days after the deal was revealed in the media, the Church media reported that Archbishop Charles Scicluna was unaware of the deal.

He later asked the KA to look into the proposed project. The commission later said the proposal should be revisited. 

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