The Malta Independent 19 September 2019, Thursday

Cospicua mayor disagrees with PL MP’s AUM ‘dozen students’ claim

Neil Camilleri Friday, 23 August 2019, 10:58 Last update: about 27 days ago

Cospicua mayor Alison Zerafa Civelli has cast doubts on a claim, made by Labour MP Glenn Bedingfield, that the American University of Malta only has around a dozen students.

The mayor, however, did not give any more information when asked by this newspaper.

Over the past weeks, Bedingfield, a Cospicua district MP who also serves as executive coordinator of the Cottonera Rehabilitation Committee, came out against a number of planning applications by AUM, particularly for the construction of a dormitory, saying that it is “too big for AUM’s dozen students.”

AUM has failed to attract the desired of number of students to its Cospicua campus, but it has nonetheless applied to build a large dormitory near Senglea gate and to extend its campus along Cospicua’s Dock 1 waterfront.

It plans to build an administration block in an existing open area and also to restore and extend what is called the Knights building. The Knights building extension and the proposed dormitory would result in the loss of several parking spaces.

The Cospicua council had already expressed concern about the loss of parking spaces but has otherwise not raised any objections to the proposed developments. When asked, on Tuesday, whether she agreed with Glenn Bedingfield’s statements, the mayor initially referred us to a letter, sent by the council to the Planning Authority earlier this year, in which it had raised the parking issue.

When pressed to comment specifically on the MP’s comments, Zerafa Civelli said: “Our objection was clear, primarily it speaks about the parking problems as stated black on white. Glenn [Bedingfield] is talking about Cottonera in general. I am the mayor of Cospicua and my concerns are about Cospicua. My council is still of the same opinion. We are in favour of the area being developed in the interest of our residents. However, we will continue to be the voice of our residents, ie: to have a place where to park their cars. Then, I cannot agree with Bedingfield, for example, when he says that a dozen students attend AUM when I know that he is not right.”

This newsroom asked the Cospicua mayor to be more specific and whether she knows the real number of students enrolled at AUM, but no replies were received by the time of going to print.

Besides disagreeing on the number of students studying at AUM, Zerafa Civelli and Bedingfield also seem to have different ideas about residents’ concerns. While the mayor said that the main concern is parking spaces, Bedingfield said many residents support his objection to overdevelopment in the area.

The MP recently wrote an opinion piece titled ‘AUM: Give us back our land.’ He also posted several photos of himself meeting with residents, expressing satisfaction at the level of backing he had received in objection of the proposed developments.

Bedingfield had previously been one of the leading voices in favour of the project, which was supposed to regenerate the Dock 1 area and bring business to Cospicua.

The project has been controversial from the start because the government had initially pledged a large tract of ODZ land in Marsascala for the campus to be built. Those plans were subsequently scaled down and AUM was given a secondary site in Cospicua.

The ‘American-style’ university has failed to attract more than a handful of students and the government has said that, should the required student quota not be reached, Zonqor will not be developed.

 

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