The Malta Independent 20 August 2019, Tuesday

Talks on White Rocks ongoing, 10 months after corporation said it hoped for agreement ‘within days’

Albert Galea Tuesday, 15 January 2019, 17:49 Last update: about 8 months ago

Negotiations on the White Rocks project are at an "advanced" stage, Economy Minister Chris Cardona said on Tuesday, a whole 10 months after the White Rocks Development Corporation (WRDC) had said that they were hopeful of reaching an agreement within days.

Replying to a parliamentary question asked by PN MP Chris Said, Cardona noted that one must understand that the project is by nature a complex one, which requires negotiations in a refined and comprehensive manner before an agreement can be reached.

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Cardona's statement echoes that which he gave this newsroom last August when asked about the same project.  Back then he said that the parties "have not registered any progress" in the previous three months, pointing out that the "right conditions" and the "right price" were important when dealing with public land.

Since August, there has been no news whatsoever on what the fate of the 450,000 square metre site in Bahar ic-Caghaq will be. 

This newspaper reported last January that the WRDC had reached an agreement with the government over the planned development of the Pembroke site. This was primarily described as a mixed-use complex, which would include a seven-star luxury hotel along with leisure, hospitality, residential and commercial units.

WRDC had also said that large portions of the site would be dedicated to public space, including a 100,000 square-metre garigue heritage park, public access to the shoreline and coastline restoration. The investment for the land in question is expected to total €400 million.

Minister Cardona had emphasised the benefits the project would have on "Malta's thriving economy and tourism industry", further explaining that "this is an extensive project, and consequently the government, in cooperation with the Privatisation Unit, is committed to negotiating the best possible deal to ensure that this site, which for many years has been left abandoned, will be regenerated".

The consortium consists of London & Regional Holdings, which includes Livingstone Brothers (Richard and Ian Livingstone), with group net value assets of €5 billion; the Alpine Group, with Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association president Tony Zahra being one of its directors; Bonnici Brothers, a construction company owned by Emanuel Bonnici, John Bonnici and Mario Bonnici; Mizzi Holdings Ltd, owned by Maurice Mizzi, Brian Mizzi and Kenneth Mizzi; Michael Bianchi, who is an investor in various companies and is one of the directors of Airport Investment Ltd; Sea Estate Ltd, whose sole director is Joseph Eucharist Vella of Karkanja Ltd; Elma Ltd, whose directors are Dennis Baldacchino, who owns Tal-Magħtab Construction Ltd, and Charles Ellul, director of Elbros Construction Ltd.

The following is a year-by-year timeline of the news and developments that have surrounded the site since it was placed for sale in 1999.

June 1999: The Tourism Ministry invites proposals for the purchase and development of the White Rocks Area.

February 2000: Three preferred bidders are named: Gasan-Siva group, Costa San Andrea and UPA Consortium.

May 2001: Costa San Andrea's proposal is approved, with a projected completion date of June 2003.

 October 2003: A permit for the €58 million project is issued by the Planning Authority. The completion date is moved to 2007.

August 2004: The Government and Costa San Andrea in disagreement over real estate issue, the contract is not signed and the Government says that a new development brief will be issued.

June 2010: The Government announces a €200 million project to transform the site into a sports village with 300 residential units and the promise of 800 jobs.

June 2011: Negotiations between UK Consortium White Rocks Holding Company Ltd and the Government still not concluded, with questions regarding the project being ignored by the Government.

April 2012: Parliamentary Secretary Clyde Puli insists that talks with the UK consortium have "progressed substantially" amid doubts that the project will ever materialise.

November 2013: Following the change in government in March, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat says the proposed sports village would be relocated elsewhere and a fresh call for expressions of interest would be issued for the development of this prime site.

June 2014: White Rocks project reinitiated by Minister for Economy, Investment, and Small Businesses Chris Cardona.

April 2017: Project stalled as Government and White Rocks Development Consortium disagree on the value of the land.

May 2017: During an election debate, Arnold Cassola and Simon Busuttil pledge not to develop the White Rocks area.

December 2017: White Rocks site considered as a new location for Institute for Tourism Studies (ITS) by Konrad Mizzi.

February 2018: Adrian Delia meets White Rocks representatives - does not deny receiving financial support.

March 2018: WRDC quoted as being 'hopeful' that the 2014 deal will be closed within days.

August 2018: The Malta Independent reports that there has been no agreement or major updates on the White Rocks project.

January 2019: Minister Chris Cardona tells Parliament that negotiations are at an "advanced stage".

 

 


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