The Malta Independent 24 October 2021, Sunday

Balluta stairs project redesigned: ‘We have listened to the people’ – St Julian’s Mayor

Janet Fenech Friday, 24 September 2021, 16:02 Last update: about 29 days ago

ACB Architects to recalibrate new design costs

Main photo shows the updated design (left), vs the original one (right)


The St Julian’s Local Council has “listened to the people” and has published a new design for the controversial Balluta stairs project which was previously set to cost €450,000, Mayor Albert Buttigieg told The Malta Independent on Friday.

This new project design which will be worked on by ACB Architects, as with the previously published design comes after a backlash on social media with regards to both the amount set to be spent on the project, the lack of water resourcefulness and greenery, the materials used for the design as well as some features of the design, namely the glass railings and the approximate €104,000 water feature.

As Buttigieg noted, ABC architects was the sole bidder for the project design in 2018. They will now be recalibrating the new design costs. Buttigieg told this newsroom that the revised project might cost less than the previous one chosen; however, the new water reservoir take up a big chunk of the funds seeing that it cannot be excavated using heavy machinery, so as not to damage the longstanding stonework of nearby buildings.

The new design, which is set to take about five months to work on, goes without the glass railings and the water feature. Instead, it will see black metal railings to replicate those from nearby houses, an additional culvert at the top of the steps as well as a water reservoir underneath the hill which will connect to another culvert at the bottom of the steps, Maltese tiles being featured on some of the steps, as well as include the longstanding quote currently engraved on the steps on a plaque at the forefront of the steps.

The chair lift included in the first design will still be considered, even though Buttigieg said that he worries it will be short lived due to vandalism and or be damaged easily by rain.

The seating areas for the design will match with the landing layout of the steps, which had to be included since there is a maisonette entrance on the right side of the steps into someone’s house.

The council will also be creating a by-law to deter people from blocking the stairs.

The project process for these steps started in 2015, with all due processes having been carried out.

As he described, a public consultation for all St Julian’s residents was called (they were all invited by a postal letter) as well as a Planning Authority process wherein the entire Maltese population could have objected during the allocated thirty-day period.

Even though people had been given a chance to submit their feedback, “everyone became an expert” once the design was revealed, Buttigieg said.

“Journalists have a right to hold people accountable, but they also have a moral and ethical responsibility not to allow others to personally attack those who are doing their part for the community,” he added.

Buttigieg told this newsroom that, although he welcomes constructive criticism as displayed in the way that the council redesigned the project, the way he was personally criticised as well as received embezzlement allegations discouraged him greatly and they were unacceptable, such that he reconsidered whether it would continue to be worth it for him to remain Mayor: “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

He explained that there were four options available: leave the project as it was, not do anything at all, apply for a new PA permit or take the feedback on board and amend the design. The council went for the latter.

“We have taken in all the recent objections towards the design for the Ballutta steps yet, I am sure there will still be some people who will have something to say and or wish that the project is stopped altogether, however, we have to move on now, there are more important issues out there,” Buttigied concluded.

The controversy over the original design had started when interior-designer Caroline Ciantar Barbara had criticised the project's design, saying it could have been better.

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