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After a two-hour hearing beset by repeated delays, which a Planning Authority official claimed were ‘due to technical issues’ related to sending an invite link to registered objectors, a much-awaited verdict on MIDI Group’s massive proposed project on Manoel Island was deferred earlier today. The stated reason for a deferral was highlighted by a member of the Planning Authority board, who referred to previously highlighted concerns about the impact the development might have on Valletta’s UNESCO World Heritage status.


According to the Planning Authority’s agenda, the planning application filed by MIDI – who’d been awarded a concession to the site decades ago and left it idling up until 2016 – was slotted as the third item. While it is not abnormal for PA hearings to take a considerable amount of time to draw to a conclusion, there was a long, 25 minute pause right before the hotly contested Manoel Island application was set to be heard.

Shorter delays were also noted in between the two other planning applications which were decided on while ‘the technical issue’ with sending out meeting invites to objectors was sorted out, according to the PA.

Earlier this morning, Moviment Graffitti published a post on social media calling for members of the general public to voice their objection to the massive 323-apartment complex proposal on what could have been an extremely important green lung for a densely built-up locality. The group, together with fellow activists Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar (FAA), were also the same activists who sounded the alarm about risks associated with Valletta’s UNESCO World Heritage status. Valletta is situated right across the harbour from Manoel Island.

Following the post published earlier this morning, members of the activist group confirmed that over 600 emails had been sent directly to members of the Planning Authority’s board by the time the decision to defer the application was taken. Even the chat in the online meeting broadcast by the PA got a bit rowdy at one point, with one user named ‘Moritz’ calling on the board to ‘stop destroying the little bit of land still untouched in the area’ before the board even got around to discussing the application.

After ‘the technical issues’ were resolved by around 12.10pm, the potential negative impact on Valletta’s surroundings was immediately brought up by one of the board members. After a brief discussion between the board members – it was difficult to tell who was stating what since all board members were effectively sharing one screen online – the board unanimously agreed to defer the decision to a later stage while the Planning Directorate consults with the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage on the matter at hand.

Environmental NGOs have been at odds with MIDI for the past eight years, with the latter consistently rebuffing calls for Manoel Island to be returned to the public and insisting on pushing through with what has proven to be an extremely unpopular and ill-fated development.

While the project was first envisaged more than ten years ago, MIDI’s search for a business partner has since them proven seemingly futile, with one such potential agreement with Tumas Group having fallen apart in 2019 following the arrest of Tumas Group shareholder and alleged murder mastermind Yorgen Fenech. While major Labour-affiliated developer Anton ‘Tal-Franċiż’ Camilleri was reportedly in talks with MIDI for the past two years, it seems that negotiations have stalled, raising questions about whether the project is even financially viable in its current state.

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