The Malta Independent 24 September 2021, Friday

Thumbs up for new Fort Chambray Master Plan

Malta Independent Friday, 23 November 2012, 08:03 Last update: about 8 years ago

The Mepa board approved a fresh master plan for phases two and three of Fort Chambray, Ghajnsielem which is about the relocation of the hotel from the western flank of the Fort adjacent to the gunpowder magazine (polverista) to the central area adjacent to the Knight's Barracks.

Meanwhile, the British Barrack Block, which in the approved plans was annexed to the same hotel, will be dismantled and its façade will be reconstructed as part of the new relocated hotel. The proposal envisages that the arcades on the facade of the British Barrack Block, which is not a scheduled building, will be a continuation of the arcades of the Knight's Block (which were also added in the British period).

In the same sitting, Mepa discussed the building of a substation, water reservoir and a pump room at Fort Manoel, Gzira. The developers also intended to rebuild the stables that had been built by the British but demolished by the Lands Department between 2000 and 2001 after it had been occupied by squatters.

The board was not keen about this building because it was not intended to have much use except to possibly serve as a guard room and to host a switch room. The substation will be underground, below the same square and the switch room can be part of it. Consequently, new plans, including the underground switch room, will be submitted and a decision will be taken by the board within a month.

The stables were at the Place de Arms, one of seven squares at Fort Manoel and the one closest to St John’s Bastion. The building was going to be masked with trees and only visible from the Place de Arms itself. Nonetheless, it was not considered necessary by the board and the developers did not feel strongly about it.

The application also proposes a trench (having a length of about 125m and a depth of between 1m and 2.2m) and an 85m long service road emanating from the area which is to host the substation structure. An application submitted simultaneously to one discussed, (PA5216/10) proposing the restoration of the surrounding ditch, bastions, counterscarps, glacis and outer works was recently approved.

Back to the subject of Fort Chambray - the last discussed but perhaps most interesting -the original Master Plan included the building of the hotel and residential units. In fact, the residential part of the development has been largely constructed, although the western section is unfinished and includes blocks that though approved have not yet been built. The areas to the east of the enceinte, including the communal pool and associated landscaping, have been finished.

The enceinte incorporates several buildings of historical importance, namely the barracks of the Knights in the central area, the bakery and gun powder magazine from the same period at St Paul's Bastion and the South Western tip of the Fort respectively, and Dar it-Tabib at the Western flank.

The British Barracks are at the South Western side.

Fort Chambray is on a promontory overlooking Mgarr Harbour. It commands the views of the approach to the harbour by the ferries connecting Malta to Gozo and is highly visible from villages to the North of its location such as Nadur. The Fort can be accessed from Triq Chambray and through an arch in the bastion wall.

The enceinte is surrounded by fortification walls on three sides with the landward side, to the North, being the most defended. This aspect is defended by two demi-lunes and a counterguard. On the East side the Bastions overlooked clay slopes leading down to Mgarr Harbour and on the West side the site adjoins semi-irrigated agricultural land which leads down to Xatt l-Ahmar. On the South side overlooking the sea there are no Bastion walls but very rugged cliffs on top of clay slopes which are farmed in a series of small terraces.

The Master Plan for the site was approved in 1995 and the actual owner took over the site in 2007 when some of the development had already been built.

The site has historic value and was initially intended to serve as a city, however only one block was built. Building inside the fort is now underway, the developers’ architect explained.

Several restoration works have been carried out on the bastions but more

interventions are necessary as so far, a third of the works have been completed. Consolidation works are necessary in certain areas because large rocks have been dislodged.

One of the conditions in the local plan covering the area was that developers must leave a passageway all around the fort, open to the public. While part of this has been completed, there is a problem with joining the first and second phases since a particular area has never been developed and the rocks are in dis-level. It is easier for this area to be addressed once the hotel is built in the central area.

The idea of the developers is to have the hotel serving as a commercial centre and residences not to be cut off from it. Besides the completed residential areas, a third phase is proposed.

To accommodate the higher volume of residents, the underground area will be extended.

The board agreed with the developers that the visual impact on the gunpowder magazine from the sea, will improve and the centre is shifting inwards. The texture of buildings proposed is also more uniform although the buildings will increase.

The development density will increase but despite this, the Mepa directorate pointed out there will now be 46 units per hectare and this is comfortably within the limit set by the Development Brief for the Fort.

Mepa board chairman Austin Walker said the proposal made a lot of sense in comparison with what there was although this comes at a price. He remarked that the previous Master Plan had a good sense of openness but was reassured that all open spaces will be kept.

Mepa CEO Ian Stafrace said that a critical point for the Planning Directorate was that it tried to achieve balance in the development and a lot of work was carried out. He felt that all in all, the project was being improved.

There was general agreement on this point from the board members. One member commented that the board appreciates the restoration works which have already been carried out and is ready to close an eye as long as restoration works are completed. Assurance was given that the extensive damage that exists will be repaired.

The board also approved application 06678/02 for Tas- Simblija Sheltered Housing, in an ODZ area between Naxxar and Iklin.

The site, which touches existing buildings and is currently used as a storage yard in an industrial area, will be turned into a three age village for the elderly. There will be residences for independent people, an area for those less independent and a nursing centre for the dependent.

A health spa, pools, shops, a salon, an open air amphitheatre, a bar, restaurant, chapel and extensive landscaped area are all included in the development brief.

The first application for the site was filed in 1993, was originally refused but approved on appeal. It has been revised and flooring was reduced to three in an outline development application of 2002. The site area has since increased from 13,646 square metres to 16,180 square metres. There will be three building blocks and site coverage has been reduced from 50% to 42%.

The development was approved on a number of conditions including that the area can solely be used as a retirement home and should be a single business operation under a sole owner.

The board also approved an application to split an apartment at Fort Cambridge (Tigne Point), into two.

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