The Malta Independent 20 February 2019, Wednesday

TMID Editorial: Corinthia deal - A travesty involving public land

Monday, 14 January 2019, 10:50 Last update: about 2 months ago

Computer generated images showing the size of the proposed Corinthia project as St George’s Bay, Paceville, show how this project, along with the neighbouring one by db Group, will completely obliterate the peninsula’s skyline.

The images, broadcast on last week’s edition of Xtra on TVM, are shocking not only because of the sheer size of the buildings but also because some of Corinthia’s towering buildings will start right at the water’s edge.

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The artistic impressions, which show how the project will look from both St George’s Bay and Pembroke, clearly show that the project is simply too large in scale, and will swallow the entire area. What’s worse is that the impressions did not include the db tower and hotel, meaning they do not show the entire extent of the visual impact that the projects will have on the surroundings once ready.

Together, the two projects will completely change the area, and not for the better.

And all this has to be seen in the context of a missing Paceville Master Plan. It is utterly shameful that such mega projects are being green lighted at a time when there is no such Master Plan.

The document was prepared specifically to deal with a number of planned high rise buildings in the area. But it was flawed and had to be scrapped, and a new Master Plan had to be drafted. Several months later, that document has still not materialised, yet the planning applications and government land sales keep going unabated.

We are not talking here about some minor project – perhaps a two-storey house, or a seafront restaurant. We are speaking about two massive developments which include high rise structures and which will completely alter the aesthetics of the area.

The government needs to be courageous enough to halt all projects until a Master Plan is devised – and that process must be speeded up, though not at the cost of quality.

Other worrying factors emerged during the programme. One clause from the proposed agreement states that the Corinthia Group will have the right to sell parts of the property to third parties without needing prior approval from the government.

So what we have is a situation where IHI obtains public land at a drastically discounted price, uses it not only for tourism purposes - as it was originally intended - but also for real estate:  the money maker. On top of that, it will reserve the right to sell off parts of the land to third parties, presumably at proper market price, hence at a massive profit.

This is effectively opening up the deal to land speculation.

It is already bad enough that public land is pittance – the site was undervalued and the price was further slashed by over €70 million.

It is already bad enough that land that was originally rented out for tourism projects – to boost Malta’s growing tourism industry – has now had its conditions changed to allow for real estate development.

But the fact that a private group is buying public land – our land – on the cheap, and is being given the permission to sell it to other private groups at market value is beyond scandalous. 

Fortunately, only a draft agreement exists so far, and the government is still in time to stop this travesty and use public land more wisely.

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