Malta’s Planning Authority has approved plans for the Chinese Embassy to transform almost 20,000 square meters of agricultural land in Pembroke into its new home.
NGO representative Annick Bonello and Pembroke local council representative Kevin Borg were the only two PA board members to vote against the project. Vincent Cassar, Martin Camilleri, Victor Axiaq, Joseph Brincat, Gilmour Camilleri, Saviour Debono Grech, Sean Mangion, Duncan Mifsud and Omar Vella voted in favour.
The Chinese Embassy and PA board were also able to reach a compromise on the planning gain for the site. The Chinese government wanted to reduce the planning gain of €478,000 and will pay now €350,000. The fee is usually used to mitigate the environmental impact of a project.
According to the application, the embassy will rise to six floors, will have 20 residential apartments and a formal garden of 5,000sqm.
Almost 1,000 residents expressed their objection to the project. However, it seems that the PA board has steamrolled over public opinion.
Concerns over traffic and the construction of a road to cater to the embassy have also drawn the ire of the public. Pembroke, with several schools, is one of the most congested areas in Malta during early morning rush hour. Transport Malta has also noted that the creation of a new street could be dangerous for other drivers.
While within the development zone, the 19,000 square metre site also lies just 280m away from a Special Area of Conservation within Pembroke that’s protected under flora, fauna, and natural habitats regulations.
The site, located on Suffolk Street, is right behind St Catherine’s school and neighbours the Labour Party’s Australia Hall, which has fallen into utter disrepair over the last few years.
The Chinese government had purchased the land from the government in 2015 in a deal worth around €7,880,000, one of many government-sanctioned sales of public land under the current administration.
However, the Chinese government had first earmarked the site way back in 2007, with the Ambassador reaching out to the government over a 10,000 square metre plot in Pembroke.
Meanwhile, the land transfer was only possible after the previous Nationalist Administration amended local plans to allow the construction of an embassy on the stretch of green land. The site, it should be noted, had always been earmarked for development.
The agreement in 2015 was approved by both government and the opposition.
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