23 August 2006

The Web
Business Today

SmartCity plans kept hidden

James Debono

The Malta Environment and Planning Authority has set the ball rolling to pave the way for the SmartCity@Malta project by initiating a revision of the Grand Harbour Local Plan (GHLP).
The government plans to get the new plans approved by parliament by the end of October, pending a successful outcome of negotiations with Tecom.
Yet, government has declined to reveal the contents of the plans submitted to MEPA in response to the authority’s call for a revision of the GHLP. The GHLP earmarked the shoreline between the Ricasoli fort and the sea as a recreational area for the public and Wied Ghammieq as the site for a sewage treatment plant.
But this is all set to change if plans for SmartCity are approved.
In the beginning of August, MEPA invited individuals and organisations to send preliminary submissions on revising the GHLP in connection with Smart City.
The deadline for submissions on revising the plan expired last Friday, right in the midst of the Santa Marija holiday lull.
In response to MEPA’s call for submissions, the Ministry for Investments and Information Technology has submitted to MEPA a draft of the Project Description Statement of SmartCity@Malta.
Neither MEPA nor the Ministry would reveal the contents of these plans.
According to a spokesperson for MEPA, submissions were also presented by Enemalta Corporation.
Moreover according to a spokesperson for the Ministry for Investments and Information Technology negotiations with Tecom on the SmartCity project are at a “very advanced stage.”
The government had originally planned to get these plans approved by parliament before the summer recess but now the government plans to get the Smart City plans approved by the end of October.
“The Government and Tecom are still discussing the final deed which has to be submitted to Parliament in accordance with the Land Disposal Act.”
According to the Ministry a significant amount of work related to the planning components of the project was carried out.
Once the discussions with Tecom are completed, the draft final deed will be submitted to Cabinet for its consideration. Following this a parliamentary resolution will be submitted to the Parliament by the end of October.
Minister Austin Gatt had already fast tracked two substantial areas in Kalkara, one on the shoreline between the fort and the sea and another in an area known as Ta’ San Pietru in the new development schemes.
Both areas were included in the new scheme during meetings of the parliamentary planning committee after the public consultation period had been concluded.

Council still in the dark
The Kalkara local council did not make any submissions arguing that it could not make any submissions as long as the government’s plans were not published.
Kalkara mayor Michael Cohen wrote to MEPA Chairman Andrew Calleya to inform him that the council will only comment when plans are revealed.
“We cannot comment if we have no idea on what is being proposed,” Cohen told Business Today.
The Kalkara Local Council has been kept in the dark on the proposed plans.
“Apart from a short briefing, we were given no information on the project. We have yet not seen any plans for the Smart City development,” the mayor told BusinessToday.
But MEPA claims that it was duty bound to call for submissions at this stage citing Article 27 of the Development Planning Act which states that the public must be consulted at all stages of the planning process.
The submissions presented by the government will be considered within the proposed changes.
Following this preparatory phase, a six-week public consultation process on the proposed amendments will follow.
In its call for submissions MEPA has identified a number of policies which need to be changed to accommodate Smart City.
One of the policies set to be revised states that the coastal area behind the scientifically important shoreline between Xghajra and Fort Ricasoli was designated as the Rinella Recreation Park.
According to the plan the shoreline area was not intended for development of any type and was simply intended for “quiet enjoyment of the open air by the public.”
Another policy set to be revised is that regulating building heights in the area presently occupied by the industrial estate.
MEPA is also set to amend another policy which identified Wied Ghammieq as the site for a sewage treatment plant.


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