PN declines to say where it stands on Manoel Island, citing lack of information
Busuttil says party has yet to see plans for the site
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil would not take a stand on the controversial Manoel Island development, insisting his party “has not yet been informed of any plans” for the site.
The leaders of all other political parties have weighed in since development consortium Midi announced its latest master plan for Manoel Island, which includes a hotel at Fort Manoel, extensive luxury retail outlets, low-rise apartments and a casino-hotel at the historic Lazaretto.
The new plans emerged from closed-doors meetings with stakeholders last month, but Midi has confirmed the plans publicly amid harsh criticism, insisting that 62 per cent of the island will be designated as public open space, including an 80,000-square-metre park.
Asked for a reaction to Midi’s plans, a spokesman for Dr Busuttil only said only: “The PN is not yet informed of any plans for Manoel Island. Once the plans are officially presented, the PN will be in a position to state its position.”
Pressed for a comment on calls for the concession agreement to be investigated or be bought back by the government, the spokesman reiterated that the party would “reserve judgement” until the full details were available.
Midi was granted a 99-year concession on Tigné and the large part of Manoel Island in 2000 under a PN administration, although development work on the island has so far been limited to the restoration of Fort Manoel.
The consortium has courted increasing controversy over the past year, first over public access to the foreshore – which was recently restored after 16 years – and now over its new plans, which critics say differ substantially from those originally presented in an outline development permit.
The Partit Demokratiku, which is having talks with the PN on the possibility of forming a coalition, has called for Midi’s concession to be bought back by government and the island turned into a new national park.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has said Manoel Island must remain “a green lung for the area without becoming overdeveloped” and refused to rule out any course of action in relation to the concession agreement. Alternattiva Demokratika demanded an investigation into the contract between the government and Midi, insisting the island should be returned to the government if any conditions were found to have been breached.
This call has been supported by the Labour mayor of Gżira, Conrad Borg Manché, who has spearheaded opposition to the development, and the NGO Friends of Manoel Island.
Mr Borg Manché has described the plans for the island as “completely unacceptable” and said the proposal would create “another jumble of retail outlets and commercialised space”.