Environment and Resources Authority objects to ‘obliteration’ of Villa Rosa valley bed

The Villa Rosa project, proposed by developer Anton Camilleri, would see the demolition of moynihan and dolphin houses, in order to make way for a mega underground car park, expected to accomodate over 1,500 cars

Photo of the proposed Villa Rosa project, on which the ERA based its report. A leaked design published earlier this year, presented a high-rise proposal
Photo of the proposed Villa Rosa project, on which the ERA based its report. A leaked design published earlier this year, presented a high-rise proposal

Excavations to make way for a mega underground car park for the Villa Rosa project will lead “to the obliteration of the still existent natural valley”, the Environment and Resources Authority said in its final report on the Garnet Investments project.

The project, proposed by developer Anton Camilleri, would see the demolition of the Moynihan and Dolphin houses, to erect residential and commercial facilities in parts of the garden, a car park, a low-rise hotel at Cresta Quay, as well as the restoration of the historical Villa Rosa.

The car park would have a total gross floor area of 40,500 sq.m and extend beneath the whole development. This car park is expected to accommodate up to 1,543 cars. 125,697 cubic metres of rock will be excavated.

In its assessment of an Environment Planning Statement submitted two years ago, the ERA made it clear it was objecting to the excavation of the valley bed, pointing out that the inner part of the valley was still clearly visible on site and worth preserving in its integrity, integrating it within the low density development proposed in this zone.

The Environment Planning Statement (EPS) concluded that the proposed development is not expected to have an impact on the structural integrity of the Villa Rosa and Għar Ħarq Ħammiem given that the use of chainsaws is being proposed for excavation.

ERA is also calling on the developers to downscale the project, which would have a highly significant adverse impact on the landscape, by “obscuring a prominent and picturesque landmark (Villa Rosa) from certain viewpoints”. 

While noting that air quality studies indicate that emissions from increased traffic will not exceed legal limits, ERA also expressed its concern on a daily increase of 2,000 vehicles passing from Trig Santu Wistin and of 850 vehicles passing from Xatt ta’ San Gorg, noting that this should be seen in light of other projects in the same area.

The project will be adjacent to the City Centre development proposed by DB Group. In its assessment of both the Villa Rosa and City Centre projects, the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage has called for a geophysical report to assess the impact on the Wied Harq Hammiem cave.

The project also involves the complete demolition of Moynihan House, currently proposed for scheduling both by MEPA and in the EPS cultural heritage assessment as a Grade 2 building (designation does not rule out the demolition/replacement completely. ERA concluded that for this reason the impact of the proposed development on Moynihan House site “would be of high significance.”  On its part the Superintendence has called for a survey of Moynihan House.

In its report ERA noted that it would make more sense to assess the project as part of the Paceville Masterplan rather than in isolation of surrounding developments, thus ensuring a more holistic assessment.  The Paceville masterplan had excluded high rise development in the vicinity of Villa Rosa but had proposed a 30 storey tower in the Cresta Quay which is presently earmarked for a low rise hotel.  The neighbouring City Centre development is also being assessed independently of the Paceville Master Plan which was put on the backburner before the general election.  The PA is presently conducted a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) on the proposed plan.  

 

More in Environment

Get access to the real stories first with the digital edition

Subscribe