Last Updated on Thursday, 19 August, 2021 at 11:33 am by Andre Camilleri
“It was a shock the first time we saw the proposed plans for the marina in the news. Unfortunately, we were not consulted before,” explained Marsascala town mayor Mario Calleja, after an emergency council meeting was held on Monday.
Speaking to the Malta Business Weekly, Calleja refers to a Transport Malta proposal for a yacht marina in Marsascala Bay that emerged last Friday. The 52-page tender document presents a preliminary design for a new marina that sprawls across the whole of the bay and caters for a total of over 700 yachts of varying sizes.
After severe backlash to plans, residents joined together to sign a petition, and the town council voted against the idea. The project has been met with mostly negative feedback. Marsascala PN minority leader John Baptist Camilleri described the project as “suicide” for the town – with many sharing his views. However, one commenter compared the project more to a “murder” than a suicide. NGO Moviment Graffitti blasted the project, saying that the project was excessive and would take up a lot of public space, which people use for swimming and recreation.
Calleja continued, “After the plans were issued, we then decided to hold an urgent council meeting on Monday, we also requested a meeting with Transport Malta. During the local council meeting, eight members voted against the proposal, whilst one abstained. A motion approved during the council meeting condemned the publication of the pre-qualification questionnaire without any prior consultation and called for the document to be withdrawn.”
“Now, we are considering setting up a special subcommittee to tackle this project head-on. We will continue to be the voice of the residents” When asked if the council would be likely to change their stance, Calleja replied, “No, the people have spoken, and for me, the subject is closed. The proposal would suffocate the town. We need to focus on upgrading what we have, such as new quays as the existing ones are broken, and enhancing safe swimming areas. We call for the government to discuss these ideas with us.”
The proposed layout of the yacht marina is expected to substantially increase the current berthing capacity to a minimum of at least 700 berths in the marina pertaining to the project. At the same time, the concessionaire will also be expected to host and provide for a re-organisation of the current 567 berth holders.
The plans show the need for dredging, an incredibly damaging practice to the bay’s underwater habitat – in at least four different places. The plans also propose that land be reclaimed in three separate areas, the total area of which would be 16,000 square metres. This newsroom revealed that the project could have a financial value of around €183 million across 50 years.
What happens next?
The pre-qualification questionnaire issued by Transport Malta is the very first step in the concession process. Interested bidders have until 11 October to submit their questionnaire responses, after which the shortlisted bidders will then be invited to submit all the necessary details for the marina, as per the concession requirements. Once the Evaluation Committee selects the winning bidder – the members of which are not named in the questionnaire – they will have to draft plans before the Planning Authority and seek permission.
In fact, the whole concession hinges on whether the project gets clearance from the PA and from the Environment & Resources Authority. The 2006 local plan for Marsascala shows that the bay has already been earmarked for a yacht marina or a maritime-related development – meaning that the planning policy groundwork for the project to go through is already there.
However, despite this, it’s difficult to say from now – given that no actual designs by the concessionaire have been drafted, whether the PA would look favourably upon such a project. What’s certain, though, is that this project may ultimately prove to be one of the biggest environmental battlegrounds for the years and decades to come.