“PBS is not entering the real estate business,” Minister Dolores Cristina told MaltaToday when questioned whether selling land to private developers fits in with the ethos of a national broadcaster.
The application was presented last year when the national broadcaster was part of Austin Gatt’s portfolio. Cristina, who took over the portfolio after the election, insists that PBS will only be involved in the outright sale of land and will not be engaged in its redevelopment.
PBS plans to divest itself of 2,110 square meters in Rediffusion House, which will be sold for residential and commercial development while retaining 1,300 square meters in the same building. Television House will also be sold in its entirety for real estate.
But Minister Cristina strongly denied that PBS will have less space to operate from if the application is approved.
According to the new broadcasting minister, the new structure proposed to house PBS will consist of nine storeys, four of which will be below street level.
“This will be equivalent to the space occupied by PBS today in the present two buildings. PBS was planning to sell the rest of the land that it will not be using. The money accruing from this sale will go towards the financing of and investing in the new structure.”
The minister explained that PBS is in need of a modern building which answers today’s needs and exploits tomorrow’s possibilities.
“The present buildings do not adequately cater for the needs and possibilities of new technology. This building should be custom built to house new technologies.”
Last Thursday, the MEPA board refrained from taking a decision on the application giving PBS a month to submit new plans. MEPA chairman Andrew Calleja also called for clear guidelines from the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage because the development would require MEPA to de-schedule a Grade 2 historical building which cannot be legally demolished.
As minister responsible for both broadcasting and the cultural heritage, Cristina will not commit herself on whether the Grade 2 building should be demolished.
“In Malta there are several structures like MEPA and the Superintendence of Heritage whose duty it is to see that our heritage will in no way be damaged. These organisations have the technical expertise needed to take the correct decisions in this matter.”