Project Green files plans to build new green lung, underground car park in Cospicua

Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 January, 2024 at 10:03 am by Andre Camilleri

Government environmental agency Project Green has filed plans with the Planning Authority in order for them to build a new green lung together with an underground car park in Cospicua.

The plans envision the conversion of a car park on the outskirts of Cospicua, specifically one which abuts onto Triq il-Monsinjur Panzavecchia, Triq tal-Karmnu and Triq Pietru Pawl Caruana, into a two-tiered garden with three levels of underground parking.

Filed by Project Green’s CEO Steve Ellul on behalf of the government agency, the plans will see a 3,200 square metres area which had initially been slated for the construction of dormitories for the American University of Malta instead be turned into a green space for the community.

The plans show that the current car park will be replaced with a public garden which includes soft landscape, a Loggia, playground, outdoor fitness equipment, the relocation of the existing bus stop and three levels of underground public car park. The proposal also includes the relocation of the dismantled gantry crane from the British Building.

The underground car park will cater for 199 cars – including some spaces dedicated for electric vehicles and holders of disability cards – and 34 motorcycles, which is a significant increase on the current capacity of the square.

The gardens themselves will include a number of trees of varying sizes, and a playground but will be characterised largely by the construction of a loggia which is being integrated into the plans in homage to a part of Cospicua’s pre-war architecture.

Sitting on the border of Cospicua and facing the Senglea gate, the space where the garden is being planned used to host a market which was built by the British after the expansion of the dockyards. It was ultimately destroyed during the Second World War and was never rebuilt.

Known as the Santa Margerita Market, the building which hosted it was itself characterised by the archways which are prevalent in the designs for the proposed garden presented by Project Green.

The market building which stood in the area, prior to the Second World War

More recently, the site was earmarked for the construction of a dormitory for the American University of Malta – which is close by on the Dock 1 waterfront – having been given to the Jordanian company on a concession basis by the Joseph Muscat administration.

AUM’s plans for a dormitory as part of a general expansion to its campus courted controversy and opposition from the locality’s local council and from some of the government’s own MPs due to the sheer scale of the proposed five-storey building.

The proposed extensions were subsequently refused by the Planning Authority in 2019 and again by an appeals tribunal the following year. 

Muscat’s successor and current Prime Minister Robert Abela announced in the run up to the 2022 general election that AUM would be returning the land – together with land at Marsascala’s Zonqor Point – to the government.

One thing is common between Project Green’s plans and AUM’s plans: Edwin Mintoff was engaged as the architect for both of the proposals.

Back in May last year, Project Green had said it discussed the different facilities and elements that will be incorporated in this project during a community consultation session, with the participation of numerous residents and other stakeholders in the area. This consultation session was organised in collaboration with the Cospicua Local Council.

During the design stage of this garden, the agency said that it had taken into account the needs of the people living in the surrounding area, whilst ensuring that this design complements the history and particular characteristics of the site.

Project Green CEO, Steve Ellul, explained that about 10,000 people in Cottonera live less than 10 minutes away from this project’s site, and will thus be benefitting directly from it. He emphasised that this project brings back to life elements of Cospicua’s past, which have been forgotten with time.

“We are ensuring that this environmental project will be a holistic space, to include the social and cultural aspects whilst prioritising the needs of residents,” Ellul had said.

The planning application is still in the early stages of the PA’s vetting procedures.  A number of authorities will now share their consultations on the proposal, before a final recommendation on whether it should be approved or not will be made.

The public may also submit their representations until 16 February, while the PA is targeting to hear the application by 3May this year.

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