26 July 2006

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Business Today

Smartcity land in new building schemes

James Debono

Living up to the promise of putting the Smartcity project on a fast track, Minister Austin Gatt proposed the inclusion of land in Kalkara, earmarked for the hi-tech village, in the new development schemes during a meeting of the parliamentary committee scrutinising the new boundaries.
During a meeting of the permanent committee on planning and development held on 14 July, Gatt presented a motion to include the land in the new schemes. Currently the area lies outside development boundaries.
Both Nationalist and Labour members of the committee unanimously approved Gatt’s motion but MEPA was asked by the committee to indicate any constraints on the proposed land.

The inclusion of land at Ricasoli was not available for public scrutiny during the public consultation stage when the public was invited to make its submissions.
But on 14 June 2006 agricultural leases on 40,793 square metres of land lying outside development zones had been terminated to make way for the SmartCity@Malta project in Ricasoli.
A substantial part of this land lies between the existing industrial zone and an open space known as San Pietru along Saint Leonard Street.
SmartCity@Malta is projected to be one of the largest ever private sector projects and foreign direct investment as well as the largest ever new source of knowledge-based jobs to be secured by Malta. The project is set to create more than 5,000 new jobs over a period of years.
The termination of agricultural leases and the inclusion of the area in the new building schemes before plans for the project are even made public could be an indication of the fast track approach taken by the government to approve the project.
Ricasoli has also been identified by MEPA as one of the zones suitable for high rise development in its recently published document on floor area ratio.
Gatt has already indicated that he intends to fast track the application for Smart City through the Malta Environment and Planning Authority.


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