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MALTATODAY 10 April 2022

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8 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 10 APRIL 2022 NEWS Fortina requests two more storeys on Tigné block JAMES DEBONO FOUR years after being granted a permit for a 15-storey apartment block next to its tower hotel, the Fortina Group has presented new plans for an additional two storeys and an extension of the uppermost floors. As approved in 2018, the For- tina development consisted of a 15-storey residential and com- mercial block apart from the addition of five storeys to its pre-existing hotel tower. The height of the 23-storey hotel will remain unchanged in the latest application. The group contends that the two additional floors in the res- idential block will still be within "the developable floor area" es- tablished in the previous permit. The new plans also envisage an extension of the two already approved uppermost floors, in- creasing the bulk of the project. Other requests include chang- ing an approved cafeteria at ground floor and five approved residential units at the first floor, into a new retail unit. The application foresees the integration of the landscaped area around St Luke's Garrison Chapel and the vacant plot be- tween the chapel and the MIDI project, into the project's open space area. This will also result in the removal of the high wall separating the two projects and the construction of intercon- necting staircases. After assessing the latest set of photomontages of the project, the Superintendence for Cul- tural Heritage objected to the intensification of the develop- ment, warning that the proposed increase in height and volume "whilst relatively minor when compared to already approved commitments", will nonetheless "increase the impact the back- drop of the skyline as seen from the Cottonera and inner harbour areas." Fortina bought the land from the government nearly three decades ago on condition that it would be developed it only for tourism purposes. But a parlia- mentary resolution approved in 2019 allowed the company to build apartments and commer- cial development. Fortina was asked to pay €8.1 million within 10 years for the lifting of these restrictions, based on a valuation carried out by the Lands Authority. Pandemic effect: lowest number of dwellings approved since 2019 JAMES DEBONO STATISTICS published by the Planning Authority show that 7,578 dwellings were approved in 2021, down from 7,837 in 2020 – a decrease of 3.3% and a sharp 39% from 2019, when the PA had approved 12,485 dwellings. The fall in permits issued for new homes during the two pandemic years followed two record years in which the PA ap- proved 25,370 new dwelling units. This represented the first notable de- crease in approved dwellings since 2013, when only 2,707 permits for new dwell- ings were issued. Between 2013 and 2019, the number of newly-approved dwellings shot up by a staggering 374%. The new dwellings approved in 2021 included 6,451 apartments (down from 6,737 in 2020), 738 maisonettes (up from 726), 290 terraced houses (down from 297) and 99 villas or farmhouses (up from 71). The decrease in approved dwellings in the past two years coincided with an eco- nomic slowdown in the wake of the COV- ID pandemic but according to industry sources this also reflects a 'cooling-off' period following an all-time peak in 2018 when a record 12,995 new dwellings were approved. Moreover, this drop in the number of permits issued will not be felt on the ground because many of the new apartments approved before 2020 are still being constructed. But despite the decline, the number of permits for new dwellings issued in 2021 remains higher than that issued in any single year between 2008 and 2016. Statistics show that permits for new dwellings shot up from 3,970 in 2000 to peak at 11,343 in 2007. Subsequently, the number of permits declined to just 2,707 in 2013 to rise to 7,508 in 2016. The surge in approval of new dwellings between 2005 and 2007 coincided with a relaxation of building heights in urban areas. It also coincided with Malta gear- ing up for adoption of the single Europe- an currency, when more people started channelling their undeclared money into property development, fuelling a proper- ty boom. The surge in permits after 2015 coin- cided with a relaxation in planning reg- ulation through design guidelines which effectively superseded height limitations enshrined in local plans, and higher rates of economic growth, which contrast with the economic downturn between 2008 and 2013. The decrease in approved dwellings in the past two years coincided with an economic slowdown in the wake of the COVID pandemic but according to industry sources this also reflects a 'cooling-off' period following an all-time peak in 2018 when a record 12,995 new dwellings were approved

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