The Malta Independent 19 September 2019, Thursday

Cottonera residents urged to object to proposed AUM additions

Neil Camilleri Saturday, 24 August 2019, 09:56 Last update: about 25 days ago

Residents of the Three Cities are being urged to attend a 12 September PA hearing on a number of planning applications filed by the American University of Malta.

AUM had applied for a number of projects in the area, with the most controversial one being a multi-storey dormitory building and underlying car car park on Triq San Pawl, on the approaches to Senglea. The proposed building would have five floors above ground, one of which would be a car park and the rest comprising of 120 bedrooms, and a swimming pool at roof level. The car park would have another three underground levels.

Residents have expressed concern over both the visual impact that this building would have and over the loss of car parking spaces. The Senglea Local Council has objected to this particular building, saying it would affect views of Fort St Michael.

AUM also plans to renovate and extend the Knights building. The building, which will comprise of several classrooms, laboratories, offices and ancillary facilities, would see an extra floor added at roof level and would also be extended on its Senglea side. The new wing is proposed to be constructed in a modern style, using steel beams and glass.

Another proposal is for the construction of a new administration building between the British building and the Knights building. The proposal entails the uprooting of two trees but the applicants say an existing concrete stairway, which was built as part of the Dock 1 renovation project, will be retained.

The PA has, over the past months received a number of representations from residents and NGOs. One of the issues raised is that AUM, with its low student intake, does not currently need to construct these buildings. The PA has also been told that the proposed additional floors would obstruct Senglea bastions and that the alterations to the Knights building would ruin its character.

Residents have also complained about the loss of open spaces and the privatisation of much of the Cottonera waterfront. Public access to the waterfront needs to be safeguarded in view of the lack of recreational facilities in Cottonera, it has been argued.

Representations were also sent in by groups representing boat enthusiasts and fishermen who use the area and by heritage NGOs, who say the proposals run counter to planning policies.

According to the case officer’s report, the site is located within the Urban Conservation Area and is subject to the Cottonera Waterfront Development Brief. The former submarine workshop, galley stores and said loft of Dock 1 are proposed to be scheduled. The whole site is located in an Area of High Landscape Value due to the harbour fortifications.

A number of changes to the original building designs were made along the way.

According to the Traffic Impact Assessment, the university would cater for 1,000 students at any given time, with 15% being local students. The TIA noted that a portion of these students are unlikely to have licences during their first year of attendance as the age of inrollment for the first year student is approximately 18 years. It also envisages that around 40% of the local students (around 60) would commute to and from the campus by private car. The TIA estimated that AUM would have around 80 academic staff plus 120 non-academic staff.

The TIA assumes that around 220 parking spaces would be needed. It notes that the number of parking provision on site is sufficient to cater for the operation of the facility by recommended a comprehensive Green Travel Plan.

The case officer has recommended the application for approval but said that the proposed dorm and underground car park should be submitted in a separate application. The application shall be submitted within 6 months from the date of issue of this development permission to enable further assessment in terms of massing, height, architectural treatment and cultural heritage.

AUM has applied to construct these new buildings despite having to attract the desired student numbers. Over the past few weeks, district MP Glenn Bedingfield has come out against the proposals, saying that AUM should not build on all open spaces in the area. The MP, who had previously supported the project, said the proposed dorm is “too big for AUM’s dozen students.”

He has, in fact, proposed other sites in the vicinity that could house the dormitory.

Cospicua mayor Alison Zerafa Civelli told The Malta Independent this week that the council’s main issue with the project is the loss of parking spaces.

Questions about the current number of enrolled students and about the concerns raised by residents have been sent to the American University of Malta.

 

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