The Sliema Tower Situation
A big project is in the works – the Sliema Town Square Tower. But not everyone is willing to accept the decision taken by the Planning Authority (PA) to give the go-ahead to such a controversial plan.
By the end of the summer, the Planning Authority approved the Town Square project in Tigné, Sliema, a decision which was under heavy fire from various entities including NGOs and the Sliema local council. The decision came after a result of 7-6 votes during a public hearing.
The Town Square tower project proposed earlier this year will reach 54,88 square metres on a footprint of 9,237 square metres. It includes 159 apartments, 4,700 square metres of offices, 10,000 square metres of retail space and 748 parking spaces. A villa included in the project site, Villa Drogo built in 1881, will be refurbished as part of the project – which is estimated to take 10 months of excavation and 54 months to complete the construction process.
Indeed, there is a lot to be said about the benefits of high-rise development over low-rise. Project architect, Martin Xuereb, praises the project by stating that if the plan was to be implemented through low-rise building, it would take up at least 26 building plots and occupy more public space. In this sense, high-rise makes sense for such a highly developed area in which every bit of land is of paramount importance.
On the other hand, the Sliema local council opposed the project from the start due to various concerns. Further controversy arose on November 10 when the Planning Authority announced that the ERA, local council and NGOs had no right to appeal the decision, since they were represented at the planning board.
Those opposing the project refer to increased traffic congestion, noise pollution and aesthetic issues amongst others. The local council argued that other measures must be taken to revamp the area’s infrastructure before such a project takes place, particularly due to the traffic issues already present in Sliema. Studies conducted show that traffic flow during peak hours would rise from 1,868 vehicles to 2,379 in 2017 even without such a project – a notion that makes Sliema residents and council fearful of the consequences the Town Square tower would have on the town’s roads.
Sliema local councillor Michael Briguglio expressed concern regarding the impact assessment carried out in 2007, stating that the report no longer applies to the current situation. Apart from being outdated, assessment was not carried out in summer, he explains, when the area is under the most pressure. Further concern arose regarding the noise pollution such a project would create, thus disturbing residents and tourists for 54 months.
The next step
Although Sliema is no stranger to development, many residents believe that the Town Square tower is pushing the envelope a bit too far. A 38-storey building would be by far the tallest building on the skyline, and one of the most controversial projects in the area.
An appeal has been called for by the Environmental Authority, the Sliema local council and environment NGOs, and a review tribunal will decide about the appeal on January 19th.