FORT ST ELMO DEVELOPMENT BRIEF
The Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) has launched a 6-six week public consultation following a review exercise it carried out on the previous draft development brief for the rehabilitation of Fort St Elmo and its environs. The reviewed development brief takes into account the new Government policy initiatives for the urban regeneration of Valletta and will serve as a proposed framework for future rehabilitation plans.
The development brief is proposing that the Fort may be restored and rehabilitated as a major tourist and local visitor venue, and could incorporate a number of cultural attractions and visitor facilities, as well as tourism accommodation, catering facilities with panoramic views, and office space. The brief also acknowledges that the upgrading of the surrounding public spaces is of paramount importance and would be beneficial in terms of the employment creation and revenue generation in the area.
The reviewed development brief sets out the various parameters and environmentally compatible strategies that aim to utilise the potential of the area without compromising its unique historical value. The draft brief also considers various aspects of the rehabilitation process within the context of the Grand Harbour area including historic conservation and design issues, transportation, services and infrastructure.
The area covered by the development brief area has an approximate footprint of 9.25 ha. and includes the original Fort and the later additions at the Carafa esplanade, the extended outworks along the bastions, the ditch and granaries in front of the Fort, the Evans building, the Examination Centre and the foreshore.
At present, a large part of the site and its residential neighbourhood is in a state of neglect, with few locals and tourists venturing towards this lower end of Valletta, mainly due to a lack of tourism and commercial attractions. The aim of the exercise is to extend the cultural and tourism activities that are currently being encouraged through the regeneration projects in the upper and middle part of Valletta, to the lower end of Valletta.
The draft brief acknowledges that the Fort that dates back to the mid-16th century has considerable potential to attract tourists and local visitors. Incorporation of a number of cultural attractions, visitor facilities coupled with tourism accommodation, catering facilities with panoramic views as well as office space is therefore contemplated. The rehabilitation project of the Fort proposes the restoration and re-use of the existing structures as a museum and related facilities such as souvenir shops, restaurants and tea rooms. The possibility of locating an audio-visual facility within the barracks is also indicated. The piazza, on the other hand, would be ideal for outdoor activities in summer. Upgrading of public spaces is earmarked to be given paramount importance.
Other recommendations in the draft brief include:
• The reconstruction of the old lighthouse on the Cavalier, that may serve as a viewing platform for visitors and a landmark beacon within the Grand Harbour and Marsamxett region;
• The restoration of the chapel near the ‘Porta del Soccorso’ and St. Anne’s Church;
• The restoration and rehabilitation of the imposing three storey Pinto stores with later British additions, for commercial uses including tourist accommodation, food and beverage outlets, retail outlets, office accommodation and educational purposes;
• The development of a Heritage Route along the outer bastions with appropriate paving and landscaping commencing from the site of ‘The Malta Experience’ building all along the outerworks of the Fort and the Carafa bastions behind the Pinto magazines and terminating near the Drill Hall, the current location of the War Museum;
• The possibility of expanding the War Museum, using existing historic structures along the Enceinte which are to be duly restored for this purpose or other cultural uses;
• The reinstatement of the Knights’ botanical gardens in the landfront ditch which serviced the medical school of the Order within the framework of a comprehensive landscaping scheme. This area may be made accessible to the public;
• The detailed architectural studies that should lead to a decision on the retention or otherwise of the Evans Building and the potential for underground car parking on the site. The brief also recommends the exploration of the reuse of Evans Building as a residential, office and/or tourist accommodation complex.
• The use of the Granaries in front of the Fort (that are currently underutilised) as an alternative entrance to the Fort (in addition to Porta del Soccorso from the Carafa Enciente), thereby providing visitors a full appreciation of the land front fortifications;
• The pedestrianisation of certain areas such as part of the main road leading to Triq il-Mediterran.
The project as a whole is envisaged to be a catalyst for employment creation and revenue generation in the area.
During this second phase of public consultation, the Authority is encouraging interested parties and the public to view these revisions and submit any comments and feedback. Submissions are to be sent to the Authority by not later than 21st March 2011, to:
Director of Planning,
Fort St. Elmo and Environs Development Brief,
Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA)
P.O. Box 200, Marsa, MRS 1000
Or on the email address:
The revisions and Brief can be viewed on the MEPA website www.mepa.org.mt/public-consultation .