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MALTATODAY 26 February 2023

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4 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 26 FEBRUARY 2023 NEWS JAMES DEBONO A proposal to construct five parking levels for 195 cars and one level of commercial outlets for the Valletta cruise termi- nal on a site presently used as a 1,500sq.m surface carpark, is being recommend for refusal by a case officer because of strong objections by the Superintend- ence for Cultural Heritage. While the Superintendence had no objections to the sober design of the new building rising be- hind the Pinto stores, the heritage watchdog dug its heels in against the excavation of a basement level because of archaeological remains, confirmed in its investigations. The Superintendence expressed concern that the proposal still includes an extensive basement, despite the discovery of signifi- cant historical features within the site. As proposed, the basement would result in the inevitable de- struction of these features and is therefore unacceptable. The architect of the project was requested to remove the proposed basement but replied that removing the basement level for 32 additional parking spaces would result in a shortfall of parking, which is considered as "a weakness for the Valletta Cruise Port both in terms of its operational requirements and its competitiveness at regional level." The architect said the the reduction of parking spaces "will have a serious impact on the pro- ject and the areas surrounding the Valletta Cruise Port." An archaeological investigation of the site by the SCH has con- firmed the presence of historical features underneath the current surface, including historical pav- ing and structural remains. And while welcoming the re- moval of an additional sixth lev- el, the Superintendence asked for guarantees that the roof of the new structures will not be clut- tered with services and shading structures for bars or catering es- tablishments. The Planning Authority board is expected to take a final decision on the project on 16 March. JAMES DEBONO THE Gudja local council has shelved plans to develop its offices in the Raymond Caruana Garden and instead will be issuing a call for expression of interest to be in a position to assess sites offered by the private sector thus pre-empt- ing a brewing controversy in the locality. Contacted by MaltaToday and asked whether the council still wants to develop a community centre in the garden, locality may- or Sara Marija Vella announced the council's intention to find a new site for its community centre. "I believed that an alternative was required, given the fact that it was being proposed within a public garden that residents enjoy. During the last council meeting, I put forward a proposal to fellow council members suggesting the issuance of an Expression of In- terest". According to the mayor the EOI would be to assess potential privately-owned properties that would fit the criteria. MaltaToday is informed that discussions on the proposed com- munity centre had commenced in the previous legislature before the election of the new mayor. She acknowledged that at that time a community building re- specting the already existing heights in the area, "with the low- est impact on Ġnien Raymond Caruana was being proposed." In October 2022 the mayor had informed the council that Plan- ning Minister Stefan Zrinzo Az- zopardi had requested a meeting to discuss the council's plans for Gnien Raymond Caruana and the new council offices. Finding a replacement for its offices is still a priority for the council. "The current premises are not fit for a community build- ing: there are structural issues and is not equipped to cater for individuals with mobility prob- lems and the elderly, amongst others". In parallel, the Gudja Local Council has been issued with a permit to regenerate an open space currently in a dilapidated state in to be turned into a green area for residents to enjoy. The open space adjacent to the scheduled Palazzo Dorell will add more indigenous trees and will in- clude an outdoor gym, benches, a gazebo and an underground res- ervoir with a capacity of 440 cubic metres. The council has also presented plans for two separate projects; a master plan which envisages the paving and greening of the village core and plans for an un- derground parking with an open- space roof on top. The Local Council has also put forward plans address the issue of parking that according to the mayor "plagues" the locality. An area opposite the MIA carpark has already been identified for this project. " Due to its proximity to the air- port, as a Council we must address Gudja's parking challenges. In this regard, we are proposing an un- derground parking, underneath a green open space. All these pro- jects are being done in consulta- tion with the residents". Cruise liner terminal parking in the balance over archaeological finds Gudja council drops plans for offices in Raymond Caruana garden The existing surface car park (top) and a visual of the proposed building (above)

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