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20220322 TUESDAY

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12 NEWS maltatoday | TUESDAY • 22 MARCH 2022 Roads agency stands by works as residents claim damages from Rabat promenade MATTHEW VELLA INDEPENDENT candidate Ar- nold Cassola has said around 10 to 20 houses and garages on the Għeriexem Street in Rabat have been affected with by damages due to the Belvedere project, a flagship road project for trans- port minsiter Ian Borg and Infra- structure Malta. Cassola said that residents had reported significant damages af- ter the Belvedere projects, which had only been 'hairlines' prior to the road extension. "Ian Borg and IM's Fredrick Az- zopardi have become notorious for the destruction of the Maltese landscape, for the uprooting of trees, for violating private prop- erty without informing the own- ers. Not only have they destroyed people's residences, but they have now created a situation whereby Glormu Dingli street is collaps- ing and has worsened with this project. They do not want to take action. They spent €4 million and specifically ignored the road on purpose," Cassola said. Cassola reported complaints from the Rabat residents, who said their homes had been dam- aged by heavy concrete piling works. "Our street is also in a state of total collapse due to these works and the heavy machinery that was used," one of the residents said. IM provided residents with a 10-day notice to evacuate homes in preparation for piling works, as a precautionary measure. "We signed an agreement and were also personally assured by IM that any damages suffered would be fully compensated. Some neighbours even chal- lenged this agreement, and IM aggressively threatened police action if we did not evacuate our house by the stipulated date," the resident said. "IM even told the public that we were provided with alternative accommodation, which was not the case. We were left to find our own accommodation in the mid- dle of summer with a seven-busi- ness day notice and a pittance of monetary compensation in re- turn." The resident said that after sev- en months of being ignored, he had met IM boss Frederick Azz- opardi and his legal team. "They rejected all our requests and stat- ed that any damages sustained are surely due to faulty structures in our property. They had publi- cised that the fixing of the road was to add solid reinforcement to our buildings. So the fact that they are now telling us that our buildings are the problem truly shows that there was never any intention to provide reinforce- ment to the existing buildings and the project was done for oth- er reasons." Photos provided to Cassola show some concrete columns are at risk of total collapse. "To add insult to injury, IM advised that any damage to third parties will be our responsibility. Anyone walking down the street can get seriously hurt by this." Infrastructure Malta complet- ed the rebuilding of Gheriexem Road and the development of its new promenade overlooking Gheriexem Valley in November 2021. Reaction from Infrastructure Malta In a statement, Infrastructure Malta said its €4 million project included the reconstruction of the road on stronger foundations to end subsidence damage. Geotechnical investigations during the planning of this pro- ject confirmed that this road was built on layers of weak, fractured rock and clay. "Its old retaining rubble wall was cracked and ir- regularly distorted, because it was being pushed outwards by the movement of the unstable infill materials be- neath the road. As the underlying layers subsided, the road's under- ground networks were damaged as well, causing water and sewage leaks that exacerbated the prob- lem," an IM spokesperson said. Before starting any works on site, architects visited the proper- ties along this road, including the row of buildings between Gher- iexem Road and Gilormu Dingli Street, and prepared condition reports with photos showing that many of these properties had sig- nificant damages as they were built on the area's weak layers of clay, a pre-existing condition which had nothing to do with the eventual road consolidation works. "In fact, some of the properties along this row of buildings had already been declared unsafe by the relevant authorities before works commenced," the spokes- person said. Visuals of the properties' pre-existing damages were al- so shared with the media before works got underway, showing damages that property owners are now claiming to have been the result of the works already ex- isted before works commenced. Infrastructure Malta built the new road and its promenade on 370 steel-reinforced concrete piles embedded three to five sto- reys into the ground. Two rows of piles are located beneath the road's outer retaining structure, which also incorporates the promenade's cantilevered foot- path. The agency's contractors cast the third row of piles along the other side of the road, where buildings were gradually sinking into the ground as well. Before starting the drilling of some of these piles on 24 May 2021, the agency met 12 house- holds living closest to the works, including the properties in Gilor- mu Dingli Street, to ask them to relocate to alternative accommo- dation for four weeks, as an addi- tional safety precaution. "It paid each of these house- holds a compensation of €1,000 to cover the costs of this four- week relocation, which was to start on 8th June, more than 10 days after the affected residents were first contacted," the spokes- person said. "While most families accept- ed to meet Infrastructure Malta and discuss the works immedi- ately, one resident claimed she could not meet the agency's ar- chitects. Instead, she was given information about the requested temporary relocation by phone and by email. This person made additional demands, includ- ing a request for an additional €100-a-day penalty in case of delays in works and the pre-pay- ment of a compensation for any future damages that the proper- ties may suffer during the works. "While the first request was accepted, the second property could not be justified since the owner was requesting compen- sation for damages that had not materialised. Eventually, on the day that works were scheduled to start and all other families had already relocated, the agree- ment was taken to this person's property since she kept insisting that she had no time to attend meetings at the agency's offices. When the agreement was de- livered to her property, she ac- cepted the €1,000 compensation and moved out of the property." IM said that while contractors implemented these works with several technical safeguards as specified by geologists and civil engineers, it took the relocation measure as an additional pre- caution for residents' safety and peace of mind. The piling works were com- pleted on time and four weeks later the families and individuals affected were invited to re-enter their properties as planned. "The project contractors' architects in- spected these properties before re-entry to ensure that no new damages had occurred due the works. No such damages were observed," IM said. Earlier this year, some residents visited Infrastructure Malta to request compensation for repairs to their properties, claiming that they were caused by the project's works. During this meeting, Infrastruc- ture Malta explained that the damages existed before works commenced. "As already ex- plained, photos clearly show that these damages existed before works commenced. The resi- dents, including the one who had requested pre-compensation in summer 2021, admitted that they had already sought legal advice on the possibility of seeking re- dress from the original property developers for building them on inadequate foundations, but were told they could no longer do so since such responsibilities carry a 10-year prescription period." "While Infrastructure Malta ac- cepts justified claims for damages caused by its works, it cannot be unfairly pressured to pay com- pensation for damages caused by pre-existing conditions it is not responsible for, such as buildings constructed on inadequate foun- dations," IM said.

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