The local councils of Cospicua, Vittoriosa and Senglea have remained conspicuously silent on the controversial AUM project despite recent criticism by a prominent Labour MP who says he is speaking on behalf of residents.
Over the past few weeks, district MP Glenn Bedingfield, who also serves as the executive coordinator of the Cottonera Rehabilitation Committee, has come out against a number of planning applications by AUM, particularly for the construction of a dormitory, saying that it is “too big for AUM’s dozen students.”
Bedingfield also said that it was wrong to build on all open spaces at Cospicua’s Dock 1, and has suggested alternative sites for the dorm.
The MP recently wrote an opinion piece titled ‘AUM: Give us back our land.’ He also posted several photos of himself meeting with residents, expressing satisfaction at the level of backing he had received in objection of the proposed developments. Bedingfield had previously been one of the leading voices in favour of the project, which was supposed to regenerate the Dock 1 area and bring business to Cospicua.
The project has been controversial from the start because the government had initially pledged a large tract of ODZ land in Marsascala for the campus to be built. Those plans were subsequently scaled down and AUM was given a secondary site in Cospicua. The ‘American-style’ university has failed to attract more than a dozen students and the government has said that, should the required student quota not be reached, Zonqor will not be developed.
Despite Glenn Bedingfield’s criticism of the proposed additions to the Cospicua campus, the three Cottonera councils have remained relatively silent.
The councils have, so far neither backed the MPs comments nor issued statements of their own.
When asked whether she agreed with Glenn Bedingfield’s comments, Cospicua mayor Alison Zerafa Civelli sent this newsroom a letter the council had sent to the Planning Authority after discussing the project back in March.
The letter simply states that, after meeting with AUM representatives, it transpired that the university would instil the use of sustainable means of transportation and would take measures to keep impact on traffic flow to a minimum.
The council had also pointed out that the proposed dorm on St Carmel Street would increase the already acute parking problem. It suggested that AUM should create a minimum of 90 parking spaces in various sites within the locality.
Pressed to say whether she agreed with the MPs statements, the mayor did not reply.
This newsroom also contacted Vittoriosa mayor John Boxall, who said that the council had not discussed the issue yet but would be doing so in the near future. He did point out, however, that the AUM is located in Cospicua, not in Vittoriosa.
Attempts to reach the Senglea local council proved unsuccessful.
The Planning Authority is set to decide on the new AUM planning applications in September. These include the dorm, which would be situated near the entrance to Senglea, a new administration building located between the British and Knights buildings, and the restoration and extension of the former, which is located on the waterfront.