Government’s changes to the Fort Cambridge development brief, to include the retention of Holiday Inn workers has angered bidders who have now been faced with an extended tendering period for the project.
Bidders who submitted their plans according to the original brief say the new clauses “changed everything” as the consideration of employees would add new liabilities.
Yet according to a spokesperson for Investments Minister Austin Gatt, the “addenda to the Conditions and Extensions to the closing period for the consideration of bids was, as far as we are aware, compliant with the conditions established in the original tender document”.
The spokesperson admitted the original brief did not include the workers’ clause, but said this was a mistake that went against government’s policy.
“We also understand that the original documents inadvertently neglected to implement the Government’s direction, given to the GWU months before the outset of the process, regarding the need to factor consideration of the employees of Holiday Inn in the selection process,” the spokesperson said. “We are informed the addenda and the extension were undertaken to implement this policy which government has introduced as standard in all its privatisation processes to date.”
The Holiday Inn hotel site which government wants to sell for development has already attracted an Lm18 million offer which was turned down by the government.
Revealed by MaltaToday last April, the government had received a letter from a group of entrepreneurs in October 2004 through their legal representatives, offering Lm18 million for the hotel and surrounding land owned by the national airline, Air Malta.
The offer was made to Air Malta Chairman Lawrence Zammit and to Investments Minister Austin Gatt in the wake of the minister’s declarations that it would “be put up for sale by November 2004”.
The Cabinet Committee for National Projects launched public consultations on the development of the site covering an area of 25,220 square metres late last year.
Apart from the hotel, the site includes one of the last remaining military barracks from the early 1900s and Fort Cambridge dating back to the 1880s.
According to the draft development brief, primary acceptable land uses for the site include a hotel, a residential area, a higher-level educational institute or specialised research centre, a high-quality, high-tech establishment involving foreign investment and job creation, or a combination of these.
Among the acceptable secondary ancillary uses are specialist retail outlets, food and drink facilities and conference amenities. The brief also calls for a piazza for public use and to act as a buffer between the development and the residential area.