The fate of Manoel Island has been through many hands and plans, but it seems citizens’ voices have not been heard throughout most of it.
With the mindset of “last chance, before this is gone forever”, a Maltese designer, who wants to remain anonymous, gave Manoel Island a digital makeover. In just 30 minutes on Photoshop he managed to transform the island into a lush, natural space for all.
The late nineteenth-century site on Manoel Island used to be a quarantine cowshed and was home to the bar Funky Monkey until 2019.
The island has been on a 99-year lease with developer firm MIDI since 2000, but the actual development plans came nearly two decades later. In 2019, PL and PN made a joint decision, backing MIDI’s proposal to turn the island into a luxury village.
While the island is being leased and sold to whoever is the highest bidder, the voice of Malta’s citizens is and has been loud and clear: we need more green spaces.
The 2019 petition to turn Manoel Island into a national heritage park is the third-most signed in Malta’s history. Despite its 7,500 signatures, this petition was never discussed in parliament.
But MIDI did update its latest masterplan this year, reducing development to 10% of the area and increasing public space.
And so, the area was demolished in order to start construction – until it turned out there was a false declaration and a conflict of interest, and the masterplan was annulled.
In the meantime, construction had already begun and trees in the area had all been chopped down, leaving the area barren.
What is currently a dry and deserted area could be a flourishing park filled with trees and plants for people to enjoy their leisure time.
With an image from New York Central Park, the designer reimagined the island the way one of the busiest cities in the world has created green spaces in urban areas.
“Malta has become a complete mess. It is therefore so important for people to wake up and use their voice, stand for their rights and be heard – to be given what they need,” he said.
And enthusiastic commenters agreed – one even said it looks “insanely beautiful”. “Spot on! It would be amazing if we could have it that way,” another said.
“There is nothing we need more in Malta than a park full of amazing trees, one we can enjoy without having to go abroad. But I guess there is not enough money for the big pockets for it to be a possibility,” a woman responded.
Others remained more down-to-earth:
“Why are you still dreaming after 20 years?” one man asked. “This island was given to the private sector in 2000, 21 years ago, so please stop dreaming. Instead, hope that when it’s finished we can enjoy it as it will be, with free access to the sea shore as promised, thanks to our Mayor, and as green an area as possible.”
Another responded: “Never going to happen, unfortunately. Money in their pockets is more important than the health of Maltese individuals!”
Although it seems like the plans for Manoel Island are set in stone, the message represents what many have been calling for: more green spaces in Malta.
Whether it is too late for Manoel Island or not, Malta can use ambitious visions, hopeful dreamers and active citizens who make their voices heard.
What do you think Manoel Island’s fate should be? Let us know in the comments