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MALTATODAY 31 October 2021

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7 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 31 OCTOBER 2021 NEWS JAMES DEBONO PLANS by the Labour Party to redevelop its Gzira club oppo- site the scheduled Orpheum theatre have hit a snag after a case officer report recommend- ed a refusal of an application, due to its impact on the street- scape. The application foresaw the demolition of the existing town- house housing the club, to build a ground floor restaurant, a par- ty club on the first floor, as well as four overlying storeys and penthouse for nine apartments. The Planning Authority's case officer recommended refusal because the new building ex- ceeds the height limitation for the area by 1.8m, and because the replacement building is not considered "to be of sufficiently high quality for it to be accept- able as good urban renewal". Moreover the development of a restaurant is excluded by the residential zoning of the area, and the development would re- sult in a shortage of 16 parking spaces. Another reason for refusal was that while policies limit the percentage of one-bedroom apartments to 20%, in this case four of the 9 dwellings proposed consist of one-bedroom apart- ments. In a meeting held last week, the Planning Commission chaired by Claude Mallia decided to postpone its decision by three months to give the PL time to amend its plans. According to the commission, the visual appearance of the proposal does not adequately respond to the context of the surrounding locality. The com- mission called for a new propos- al incorporating "high standards of architectural design" which respects the streetscape. Architect and Labour Party deputy leader for party affairs Daniel Micallef had defended the plans in a report present- ed to the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage, which was objecting to the development arguing that any floors above the third floor should be re- ceded. The SCH described the proposed mass as "excessive" especially with the protruding Maltese balconies that increase "the top-heavy effect". The watchdog also expressed con- cern about the proposed ground floor with its high arches, which "are at odds with traditional proportions and are completely alien to the streetscape". But Micallef pointed out out that the proposal complements the history of the Orpheum by instilling a "social element" in the building and integrating the lower levels with the surround- ings, contributing to the charac- ter of the area. The social club, having an in- dependent access point and located on the first floor, will be "very well connected to the Orpheum" and "larger amounts of people will visit the place for the eatery, which was designed on ground floor with its main entry/exit in the corner of the building, facing the main door of the theatre." Moreover "the slender and elongated arches", which are also prominent in main doors of nearby buildings, are incor- porated in the design by con- necting the two lower floors of the proposal with this element, respecting the proportions of the main door (and side access points) of the Orpheum. Tim- ber balconies and wrought-iron railings were both included in the design on upper floor levels as shown in the photomontages submitted. "The Orpheum, which is in very close proximity to the proposed development was at- tentively investigated, for the design to be as complementa- ry as possible. However, other features from humble abodes found along the streetscape of the nearby blocks are manifest- ed in the proposal," Micallef said in a report to the commis- sion which also refers to a large number of permits issued in the surrounding area. Labour turns developer with five-storey Gzira block Labour Party wants to redevelop townhouse housing its Gżira club into a six-storey apartment block but Planning Authority thinks otherwise Top: the current streetscape as it stands, and bottom, the proposed apartment block on the right-hand side of the street, oppositte the Orpheum Theatre, which is also owned by the Labour Party. According to the PA's planning commission, the visual appearance of the proposal does not adequately respond to the context of the surrounding locality. The commission called for a new proposal incorporating "high standards of architectural design" which respects the streetscape

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