SmartCity seeking changes to area's master plan

Proposed changes aim at drastically increasing height limitations

An artistic impression of the massive development already being marketed.

An artistic impression of the massive development already being marketed.

The developers behind SmartCity, including the government, have formally asked the Planning Authority for radical changes to the master plan regulating the area, the Times of Malta is informed.

The proposed changes, which were officially submitted last February, aim at increasing drastically the height limitation in various areas of the planned project.

Changes particularly concern residential and commercial zones, changes to the phasing of the development so that certain real estate development will precede other areas, and realigning various plots of land and public infrastructure.

If approved, the changes, that would require the green light not only of the Planning Authority but also of Parliament, will open the floodgates for massive real estate development in the area instead of the ICT-knowledge based city originally planned when the 310,000 square metres of land in Kalkara were given to Dubai-based investors through a parliamentary resolution in 2007, according to industry sources.

According to the plans submitted to the PA, SmartCity Malta Ltd wants to almost double the height limitation at various points.

The current master plan, designed as the basis on which the parliamentary resolution for the transfer of land in 2007 was approved, puts the maximum height level at 35 metres.

The developers would like to double the height of large areas of the development, going as high as 68 metres.

This, the sources point out, allows eventual land speculators to build 11-storey blocks of luxury apartments instead of the permitted seven storeys.

The PA has not yet started considering changes to the master plan, however, a new luxury development in SmartCity, marketed as “the next big thing in Malta”, is already been offered for sale by some real estate agencies on behalf of Ricasoli Properties Limited, a private company claiming to have acquired a plot of land from SmartCity.

New development will have 411 luxurious apartments and a huge commercial mall

The company’s majority shareholder is a South African investor – Ryan Edward Otto – and the other shareholders include companies controlled by Roderick Psaila, the CEO of AgriBank PLC, a Malta-based commercial bank, and lawyers Kevin Deguara and Jean Carl Farrugia.

According to publicity material by the real estate agents, the new 11-storey development, dubbed The Shoreline, will have 411 luxurious apartments and a huge commercial mall.

Ricasoli Properties are already known to be accepting deposits on the new apartments, which are being marketed mainly for foreign buyers.

Real estate industry sources say it is becoming “more than obvious that SmartCity will be turned into a massive real estate development and some businessmen are already trying to make a killing of the whole development”.

Apart from the sale of plots of land to Ricasoli Properties, this newspaper is also informed that other large plots in the project have already been negotiated with other developers.

SmartCity was asked to confirm or otherwise the sale of plots of land, how much of the area given to them by the government has been sold and whether the proposed The Shoreline development fits within the current master plan.

“As a professional and independent organisation, SmartCity Malta is currently not in a position to divulge commercial information and business transactions until they are successfully concluded,” a spokesman said.

The public land at Kalkara was given to SmartCity Malta Ltd for 99 years for the development of an ICT village in 2007.

The shareholders, the largest being a Dubai-based company, were obliged to create some 5,600 jobs and invest over €300 million. This has not happened yet.

The government has a 10 per cent shareholding in SmartCity and is represented on the board of directors by Keith Schembri, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff.

A number of government entities relocated their headquarters to SmartCity during the past Labour administration.

These included the Malta Tourism Authority and the Malta Gaming Authority.

The government has also announced plans to build a €75 million new ITS campus in the area.

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