The planning authority will soon consider a new permit for a massive development in the Tigne’ peninsula. Townsquare will dramatically change the landscape of what is still left of one of the most sought after residential areas on the island. Ivan Camilleri posed questions about the project.

The development notice.The development notice.

Michael Soler – developer:

What are you proposing?

Building 163 residential apartments in a 38-storey tower together with retail, offices and catering outlets, the restoration of Villa Drago and an underground car park for 800 vehicles.

Do you already have the financing to complete this project or are neighbours in for another never-ending project?

The development cost of the project is around €80 million and financing will be in place once the permit is issued. The project will take four years to complete. The project cannot be phased in like a traditional plot-by-plot development as the tower has to be completed before the commercial areas can become operational.

When are you planning to start the project?

Within a few months of the permit’s approval.

How will you minimise inconvenience to residents?

Unfortunately, like any other construction project, there will be the usual inconveniences associated with excavation.

However, various mitigation measures will be implemented. These include excavation of trenches around the site to minimise vibration, the use of rippers to minimise dust and washing vehicle tyres before leaving the site. While other ‘traditional’ developments roads have to be closed, in our case all works will take place within the site itself.

How much more traffic will the project generate?

The project is expected to generate about 4,400 vehicles per day. However, it is only expected to generate approximately 350 cars in the morning peak hour and around 700 in the afternoon peak hour. It is important to note that besides the traffic generation, the capacity of the car park will include about 150 spaces more than required by law and this will mean the development will not aggravate the parking situation in the area.

A 38-storey tower is bound to put surrounding buildings in the shade.

The tower will create a pencil-like shadow and will mostly cover roofs and the sea. It is not true that our development will cast a shadow over the beach in Qui-Si-Sana. The beach is already put in the shade by existing seafront blocks and the shadow of our tower will mainly extend over the existing shadows onto the sea.

Is the existing infrastructure in the area, like sewage, water and electricity, capable of taking this project or will more public works, including street trenching, be required?

During the initial planning of the project, which pre-dates the nearby MIDI and Fort Cambridge, the infrastructure was already capable of taking the Townsquare development. Any public works have been executed with our project in mind.

Why should neighbours and residents approve your project?

We feel that our neighbours should support this project as opposed to a traditional plot by plot development. Although we can understand the inconveniences caused during the construction phase, once it’s finished, we plan to have 6,000 square metres of car-free open space in the heart of Sliema, which will include landscaped gardens, avenues and piazzas in a zone that was never fully accessible to the public.

AD officials warned about the impact of the project yesterday. Photo: Mark Zammit CordinaAD officials warned about the impact of the project yesterday. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

Objections to project mount

Alternattiva Demokratika yesterday declared its opposition to the project and insisted Mepa should not issue a permit.

AD chairman Arnold Cassola said Townsquare and another 40-storey tower at Fort Cambridge will continue to ruin the quality of life in an already overdeveloped area. He said that residents will have to face more traffic, less parking, more noise and poorer air quality.

In a separate statement, environment NGO Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar said the first step in processing applications for tall buildings should be to probe whether the infrastructure of the area can support more building, residents and traffic.

“The Tigné peninsula already suffers gridlock while the repeated power cuts in this very area recently show that the electricity network cannot cope with the present pressure, let alone the increased consumption of two high-rise buildings.”

The deadline for objections to be submitted to Mepa is August 3.

Pierre Fava – Qui-Si-Sana and Tigne’ Resident Association:

Why are you opposed to the proposed Townsquare development?

It is an intensive residential and commercial project which will seriously strain the local infrastructure: roads and commodities, in particular water and drainage, which are already inadequate due to the massive over-development that has already taken place in the Tigne peninsula.

The developers own some 12 tumoli of land in a prime location. Do you really expect them not to develop it?

It could be developed less intensively. The sheer height of the project will impact the entire surroundings and although nobody can expect anything, the development plan should have taken into consideration the surroundings and existing buildings.

What are your main concerns?

Noise, congestion and pollution during construction. There will be thousands of additional vehicles per day added to an already congested area. We have already seen an increase in traffic and pollution in our narrow internal streets because of inadequate planning of the closure of Bisazza Street.

The developers are saying the project will be completed in four years. Do you think this will be the case?

No. The developers have no previous experience with such high-rise buildings and considering past experiences, we strongly believe that the period indicated by the developers will not be the case.

Why are you so concerned about traffic and parking?

Any extra traffic will have a negative effect. There is already a surplus of parking spaces in the peninsula as both MIDI and Fort Cambridge have large car parks. Still, this has not alleviated the traffic or parking problems we face daily. The area simply cannot take more traffic. Traffic jams are already the order of the day.

Are you also concerned about the shade caused by the tower?

The models presented some years ago showed shadowing extending quite far out into the sea in winter. However, shadowing was present on the popular beach near Ghar-id-Dud and the Qui-Si-Sana garden all year round in the afternoon.

Don’t you think the inconveniences could be minimised?

The developer’s Environmental Impact Assessment itself confirmed the noise and dust could not be minimised and suggested that residents keep their windows closed for a minimum of four years until the development is finished. Can you imagine that?

Why should the developers not be allowed to build in such a sought-after area?

We cannot decide about that. Our role is to bring the facts to light and voice the residents’ concerns. This area is already over developed and more permits are in the pipeline. The idea of considering each project in isolation is wrong and has to stop.

What’s your alternative?

As this is to be a high-end development, instead of dense blocks of flats, why not perhaps build exclusive two-to-three storey villas instead. Ideally, residents in the area could have an open space similar to what was in place when the original Union Club existed.

Sign up to our free newsletters

Get the best updates straight to your inbox:
Please select at least one mailing list.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By subscribing, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.