Following public anger at plans to construct a yacht marina at Marsaskala bay, as well as the local council voting against the proposal, businesses in the area shared varied reactions, with the majority of those who spoke to BusinessNow.mt saying they are not against the idea, but do not wish to see the entire bay taken up.
Last week, Transport Malta (TM) released what is called a ‘Pre-Qualification Questionnaire’ (PQQ) with a call for expressions of interest by anyone wishing to develop a marina in the bay. As part of the calls for expression, TM also released a preliminary design showing the entire bay taken up by pontoons.
In the tender document, the number of vessels berthed in the bay will increase by at least 133, resulting to the current 567 berths allowed to increase to around 700. The preliminary design released by TM also proposes some 3,000 square metres of land reclamation for the construction of parking facilities.
TM has stressed that the plans released are nothing more than a preliminary design and decried the impression being given by “some” that the plans had been finalised, pointing out that once a shortlist of interested developers will be drawn up, and further processes such as consultation with the local community will take place.
With residents having made their anger heard about the proposed development, especially as it looks to take over popular bathing and recreational zones, the local council has also voted against and decried not being consulted at the outset.
‘Compromise has to be made’
One local restaurant sitting right on the bay, Coxswain’s Cabin, acknowledged that the project can be looked at from two extremes: purely from a business perspective, it is good news, but from an environment and social perspective, problems emerge.
One of the owners told BusinessNow.mt that a balance must be struck between local residents and the wider community, including the business community.
“The project will generate economic activity, bring work to the area, and will improve the value of property. Look at other areas of Malta, such as Sliema, St Julian’s, the Portomaso marina and Valletta. The activity generated by the boating community and the marinas are positive for nearby businesses.”
Another owner of the same restaurant said it is obvious that the plans as released currently are “bombastic”, but so long as the project is planned out well and a balance is struck between the needs of the residents and of business, it would go a long way to bring back life to the area which has largely been forgotten.
“Marsaskala needs help to get back on its feet. I am speaking through experience and as a resident, it’s one of the few places that has been forgotten. Before, when there was the hotel [the now abandoned Jerma Palace Hotel], there was a lot of life and it was beautiful. Today, there is not much activity and not much of a reason for tourists to visit.
“If you look at Marsaxlokk, which has progressed leaps and bounds over the years, you realise it is because there has been investment and there is what to see in the area. Over here, the situation is different.”
One popular café in the area, owned by somebody who is also a resident (and preferred not to be named), acknowledged that the whole proposal is a double-edged sword, and called for a compromise to be made across all stakeholders in the community.
“The original plans were just too much, it engulfed the entire area, so you can understand why residents are angry. The marina will go ahead despite opposition, I’m sure, but so long as compromise is reached and the needs of residents are balanced, by assuring there is space for recreation, then it would help to bring more commerce to the area,” the business owner said.
“The proposal would increase foot traffic to the entire area of Marsaskala, and you want to see the locals happy in their hometown, but you also want to see increased tourist numbers so that businesses can flourish.”
The business owner also said that one cannot ignore increases in the population and that Marsaskala is no longer a village but a small town that needs to be catered for.
“There is no stopping ‘progress’, but the needs of the residents must be respected for an overall thriving community.”
Another café owner in the area who also preferred not to be named said that in their personal capacity, should a smaller yacht marina be developed than the one being proposed they would be all for it. From a business perspective, however, the business owner is not convinced that it would increase foot traffic or business in general.
“Without a popular hotel in the area, we will simply not see the tourism and footfall numbers required.”
Management at the Lemon ‘n’ Lime pub, while not being completely familiar with the proposed design, quipped that he supports any proposals that would see less concrete and more trees across the island.
The local ironmonger, one of the few non-hospitality businesses that agreed to share their opinion with this newsroom, said that change is always hard and in the 30 years since he has been operating, all change has been met with some opposition.
One other restaurant in the vicinity, which preferred not to have the business named, was dead-set against any suggestion of developing a yacht marina.
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