Growing anger over a proposed university campus in Malta may force investors to alter their plans.
Plans for a 90,000 sq.m campus in Marsascala, an area of unspoilt land on the southern tip of Malta, have sparked a series of mass demonstrations since they were announced in May.
Around 3,000 marched through the streets of Valetta in late June in an effort to halt building plans for the pristine farmland in Zonqor overlooking the Mediterranean.
Protestors claim the new campus, which will built by a Jordanian investment firm, will “destroy the green lung in the south of Malta” and have questioned why they were excluded from the planning process.
The plans for the €115 million (£84 million) campus, which will be run by Chicago-based De Paul University, the US’s largest Catholic university, will cater for about 4,000 mainly international students and was due to open in autumn 2016.
It is part of plans to turn the Mediterranean island state into an “education hub”, prime minister Joseph Muscat has said. Middlesex University already has a small campus on the island, with Queen Mary University of London set to open a medical school there in September.
However, it appears the Jordan-based Sadeen Group behind the Zonqor project appears to have conceded the “American University of Malta” campus will not be built wholly on the Zonqor site.
Kevin Deguara, a lawyer who has previously spoken on behalf of the Sadeen Group, told the Malta Independent that a split-campus plan had been accepted.
“Over the past weeks, the Sadeen group has considered all options put forward by the government for the AUM project,” he said.
“As stated by the prime minister, the campus is to be split onto two sites, part of which will remain at Zonqor.”
He has previously been adamant that a single campus plan at Zonqor was the only acceptable option.
Opposition leaders have called on Mr Muscat to listen to residents during a consultation process before approving the development of land in Zonqor.
Marthese Portelli, the opposition’s environment spokeswoman, said Mr Muscat’s “recent statement that part of the university will still be built at Zonqor proves that the PM has, once again, completely ignored the calls made by the civil society.
“His statement also proves that any 'consultation process and further studies' that he said his government would be carrying out, were nothing but a complete sham”.