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MT 18 September 2016

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maltatoday, SUNDAY, 18 SEPTEMBER 2016 10 PAUL COCKS THE Government Property De- partment (GPD) has withdrawn its tentative approval for a controver- sial kiosk in the Mosta Dome area where an underground car park for some 350 is now being planned. The kiosk, which was to be con- structed in Rotunda Square direct- ly outside the Church, was finally rejected in a letter to architect Jo- seph Attard on Friday. The letter from the GPD in- formed Attard that it would "not be possible for the necessary final clearance/allocation for the pro- posed kiosk to be granted" and therefore encouraged him to take the necessary action so as not to burden his client "with unneces- sary expenses". The application "to place a dis- mountable/mobile kiosk and fix- ing of signage" was filed with the Planning Authority in January by Manuel Vella. It was immediately clear from the drawings submitted (right), that the kiosk did not look any- thing like a mobile or dismount- able one, but instead was a solid fixed structure: a structure 5.78m wide and 4m high, made of lac- quered wood, copper cladding and glazed windows. On 16 August, the GDP had is- sued its 'clearance in principle' to the applicant's request, but the ap- plication immediately came under fire as the local council, residents and a number of other entities, expressed their opposition to the proposed kiosk. On 7 September, the local coun- cil formally objected to the kiosk – because the area was used not just by the public, but voluntary organ- isations and two local fireworks clubs as well, who used the area during the Santa Marija feast days. Crucially perhaps, it also claimed that a kiosk would be an eyesore right next to such a world-re- nowned monument as the Mosta Dome. Elderly residents speaking to MaltaToday at Rotunda Square were particularly incensed at the idea of a kiosk cropping up next to the church, which is one of the few sites where they feel they can gather and relax on a bench in safety. "Besides being an eyesore and taking away a public space where we meet every evening, it would also be an obstruction for people using the busy zebra crossing," said one irate resident, Mario Galea. "We know who is behind this application, and they are being backed by a member of parlia- ment," he also claimed. But a business owner, who op- erates a small shop in the square, said he too did not oppose the idea. "There are already so many other businesses, shops and food outlets in the area, even on the pavement on the other side of the church. Another one will not make a difference to me," he said. Mayor Edwin Vassallo how- ever told MaltaToday the council could not accept that public land – used by Mosta residents, visi- tors and tourists – would be given to someone for development. "It is evident from the drawings sub- mitted by the applicant himself that this kiosk was not mobile at all but a fixed one," Vassallo said. Alex Muscat, Labour Party mi- nority leader, also voiced his ob- jection to the proposed kiosk. "I was totally, and without reserve, against this application," he said. "I immediately denounced it in public because I felt it would be wrong to have a kiosk, practically on the parvis of a monument like the Mosta Dome." The Superintendence of Cultur- al Heritage also told the PA about the kiosk that: "the proposed de- velopment would increase visual and material clutter within the piazza and would have a negative impact on visual perception of the iconic Mosta Parish Church". And finally the Malta Tourism Authority was even clearer: "Li- censes for new kiosks on govern- ment-owned land are not being considered at present unless the kiosk is part of a larger proposal that benefits the community in the relative local council." MIRIAM DALLI THE town of Mosta, home to over 20,000 residents and 2,178 busi- nesses, has been earmarked for a project by government entity Projects Malta which will lead to the construction of underground car parks and the creation of open spaces around the Rotunda. A request for proposals will be issued on Tuesday calling on in- terested parties to submit their proposals, with the submissions date expiring on November 14. An evaluation team will then review the submission and, once all cri- teria have been met, a concession will the awarded. The successful bidder will have 30 months – which kick off as soon as the Planning Authority issues the permit – to complete the pro- ject. The successful bidder must cre- ate a minimum of 350 under- ground parking spaces whilst embellishing the area around the Rotunda: the current car park which can hold up to 58 cars will be turned into an open space and a pedestrianized zone. The boċċi club, the playing field and the garden – under which an underground parking area must definitely be developed – will be reinstated. The concession fee has yet to be determined but the successful bid- der will be granted a temporary emphyteusis to the area beneath the surface for 60 years. Whilst it will be up to the con- cessionaire to determine the price of the parking fees, Projects Malta said that the tariffs must make "sense socially". With almost 7,000 workers em- ployed in the locality, attracting over 700,000 tourists a year and over 300,000 patients who visit the locality's healthcare centre, Mo- sta had become a traffic nightmare with residents complaining of the continuous traffic congestion and lack of parking spaces. Addressing a press briefing, Pro- jects Malta communications coor- dinator Julia Farrugia said the Mo- sta local council, led by PN mayor Edwin Vassallo, in July unanimous- ly approved to allow Projects Malta issue the request for proposals. The local council has been plead- ing for projects that ease the traffic flow in the locality as the problem of parking spaces created huge inconvenience for residents and businesses and shoppers alike. The GRTU, representing small and medium enterprises, was among the first to react positively to the news saying that the gov- ernment has finally listened to the please of the business commu- nity in Mosta. It thanked Minis- ter Konrad Mizzi, describing him as having "believed in and pushed forward the project" and who "in- volved the GRTU in the talks since the very beginning". Eman Schembri, Projects Malta CEO, said that the government is offering the land whilst the pri- vate sector – through an open competition – will be designing, constructing and operating the underground parking. "Given that the costs of such a project will run into millions of euros, the government will be granting the concession for 60 years," Schembri said, highlight- ing that the concessionaire will hold no title over the space above the ground. Interested bidders must also present a method statement which goes into detail on how they plan on constructing the car park, what machinery they will use, how they plan on working without increasing traffic conges- tion and an excavation method. A technical team will oversee the excavation works. The Curia has also nominated a representa- tive who will be on the team en- suring that vibrations from the excavation work do not exceed the safe limit. This, Farrugia add- ed, is being done to ensure that no damage is caused to the Mosta church. Projects Malta, architect Paul Borg added, was not reinventing the wheel as the use of under- ground parking areas in main cit- ies was extremely popular in Eu- rope, in cities such as Paris. A geotechnical investigation car- ried out by Projects Malta suggests that the rock – globigerina lime- stone – is ideal for the develop- ment of the carpark. During the consultation meetings, environ- mentalists suggested the reuse of stone which will be excavated. Projects Malta engaged in an in- tensive consultation meeting with the local council, residents, busi- nesses, environmentalists, fire- works enthusiasts and the Church ahead of the launch of the request for proposals. News Mosta to get underground car park, open spaces Controversial Mosta kiosk gets the thumbs-down Four zones have been earmarked for the development of the underground parking which must at least create 350 parking spaces

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