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MALTATODAY 28 August 2019 Midweek

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6 maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 28 AUGUST 2019 ANALYSIS CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 Only the site area of the new network is identified on the geoserver map, where users can check pending ap- plications presented on any particular site in Malta and Gozo. The information, limited to the de- lineation of the land impacted by the application, does not indicate which parts of the application will be under- ground, constructed on elevated levels or if they would require the widening of existing surface roads. The use of underground tunnels and elevations could minimise the impact on sensitive locations like the Harq il- Hammiem valley, included in the site area of the application. The plans also coincide with the route of an underground tunnel pre- sented during the processing of the DB group's 38-storey tower in Pembroke. This involves a new route starting at the junction between Triq Sant An- drija and Triq Suffolk, partly on land once identified for the development of a Chinese embassy in 2012, passing right under the Natura 2000 garigue area along Triq il-Mediterran, and continuing all the way to St George's Bay. The approval of the DB tower in the absence of a transport infrastructure plan was one of the most contentious aspects of the project, which was ex- pected to generate a demand for 7,000 new car trips. The permit was recently revoked by the law courts due to the conflict of in- terest of one of the PA board members which approved it – Matthew Pace, a REMAX affiliate owner who has since resigned the government appointment – but the developers have presented a new application to excavate the site earmarked for the project. But the area coinciding with the tun- nel plans linking Pembroke to the DB project is only a part of the latest ap- plication, which also foresees exten- sive roadworks along Triq Sant Andri- ja from the roundabout opposite the White Rocks complex, to the proposed tunnel junction. The roadworks will encroach on an afforested area near the Pembroke military cemetery and Saint Clare's secondary school. Roadworks will continue right down to the junction with the Mikiel Anton Vassalli regional road. The new network will be linked to the park-and-ride near the former Raffles disco. Extensive works are also proposed along Triq il-Professur Wal- ter Ganado which will be linked to Triq Sant Andrija. This link will pass through a part of the protected Harq il-Hammiem valley. Works are also foreseen along the whole stretch of the regional road, starting from the bridge along Wied il-Kalci (where a 25-storey hotel has been recently proposed, right before the regional road tunnels) in the in- tersection with Triq il-Baltiku, up to to the junction with Triq Sant Andrija and then up to the Paceville church near Portomaso. These plans coincide with a pro- posal made in the Paceville master- plan which foresaw a new 732m tun- nel passing under Triq Mikiel Anton Vassallo. The €32 million tunnel was meant to divert traffic away from the road surface to reduce congestion be- yond the St Andrew's park-and-ride in the northern and southern junction between Triq Mikiel Ang Borg and Triq Mikiel Anton Vassalli. The cost of another 1.4km tunnel linking Pembroke to the DB project is as yet unknown. In 2018, the gov- ernment had not yet taken any deci- sion with regard to the funding of the proposed tunnel before the approval of the DB project. It is still not known whether developers benefitting from it will be expected to contribute to the expense. But the contract through which the land was transferred to the DB Group states clearly that the gov- ernment has to "undertake at its sole cost, risk, legal and financial liability" the "required improvements to the road and utilities infrastructure lead- ing to the site". According to transport studies linked to the DB project, the proposed tunnel will produce a staggering 100,000 cu- bic metres of construction waste – half of which may be reusable in the tunnel structure itself. A total of 14,000 trips were envisaged throughout excavation phase in order to transport this material offsite. This would amount to between 50 and 80 trips a day. Although the tunnel will be excavat- ed under a Natura 2000 site, prelimi- nary reports indicated that no habitat loss or damage is expected since the excavation work will be underground. Detecting ghost applications Since May 2019, the PA stopped the publication of plans related to a large number of applications deemed to be "incomplete". But the PA's interactive map of Malta and Gozo, where users click to check the details of applications when pre- sented on any particular site – still shows the location of these "ghost" ap- plications. MaltaToday screens applications on a daily basis and lists all applications, which are listed as incomplete for fu- ture reference. These are then cross- referenced with the PA's geo-server. In this way MaltaToday is keeping a track of ghost applications to keep the public informed despite the informa- tion blackout. The PA has indicated that details of applications on major projects will only be made publically available by the Environment and Re- sources Authority at the start of the Environment Impact Assessment pro- cess which often commences months after an application is presented. The formal public consultation by the PA itself will only start after the completion of the EIA. This would mean that plans and comments by public authorities like the Superintendence for Cultural Her- itage, submitted along the process may not be available during the initial phase of the project. This is because only when an appli- cation is deemed "complete" can the public access plans and any represen- tation made during the process. Before May the public had full access to these plans from the very beginning of the application process. New Paceville road network plans PA's geoserver map does not identify tunnels, elevations or road widening Images show the new road network emerging at St George's Bay and near Spinola Bay, close to Portomaso

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