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MALTATODAY 7 August 2022

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8 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 7 AUGUST 2022 NEWS JAMES DEBONO THE Planning Authority has approved an application by the Westin Dragonara hotel to change zoning rules in Paceville, and extend the 'entertainment priority area' to its parking area behind the 18th-century bound- ary wall on Triq id-Dragonara facing the coastline. According to the case officer who recommended approval, this rezoning is necessary "to achieve a high-quality scheme in architectural and urban design terms". A substantial part of the 8,800sq.m site had been zoned for a four-storey residential de- velopment in the 2006 local plan. Subsequently in 2021, the PA re- zoned the Westin's parking area for mixed-use development: 33% for offices, 55% for a hotel, and 10% for residential use, and just 2% for food and beverage estab- lishments But now the PA has re-desig- nated the area allocated for of- fice, residential and hotel devel- opment into an "entertainment priority area" – that is, extending Paceville's entertainment hub to the residential area along part of Triq Dragonara, Triq il-Wilga and Triq il-Knisja. A number of protected town- houses are located immediately opposite the proposed develop- ment while a number of residen- tial blocks are located opposite the historical gate. Such a designation would per- mit a wider range of allowable uses: dwellings, restaurants, bars, hostels, retail, supermar- kets, dance halls, clubs and amusement arcades. According to the case officer the rezoning conforms to the designation of Paceville as whole as a Business Hub in the Stra- tegic Plan for the Environment and Development (SPED). Moreover the introduction of new commercial activities in the car park site is justified because the site "is physically separated by roads from the residential zones located to the south and west of the existing car park. Residents in the area had ob- jected to the previous applica- tion allowing mixed use develop- ment and had insisted that any development in the car park site should not rise above the lev- el of historical wall built by the Knights of St John under Grand- master Pinto, enclosing the car park. Previous applications were also resisted by residents who feared the encroachment of commer- cial activities on their door steps. But no objections have been presented to the latest applica- tion except by Din l-Art Ħelwa which complained on the "insuf- ficient information" provided in the application. Neither does the rezoning ex- ercise make any mention of what kind of project is being planned in the area in the future. An application for a 10-storey development was presented by the Westin Hotel in 2018 before the zoning applications were ap- proved and is still at the prelimi- nary screening stage. The site presently used as a car park was previously occupied by old and protected stables which stood lower than the historical wall, which were illegally demol- ished in the early 1990s. Westin car park to host entertainment hub Site opposite Paceville's protected townhouse originally designated for apartments has now been rezoned as an entertainment hub JAMES DEBONO THE Planning Authority has re- jected a request from a real es- tate company to add a pool and paving to a Dingli villa, located outside development zones at the intersection between Sqaq il-Mużew. The site is where a new road was controversially developed last year by Infrastructure Mal- ta without any planning per- mit, despite week-long protests by Moviment Graffitti and res- idents. The development has been outrightly refused because the proposed pool was deemed inappropriate in an Area of Archaeological Importance, which serves as a buffer zone for a medieval chapel within the area. An additional receded floor on top of the villa was al- so deemed to be in breach of planning rules requiring an ad- equate transition to the devel- opment zone. The Superintendence of Cul- tural Heritage objected to any excavations on the site. The two-storey villa, belong- ing to Victor Bonavia, was ap- proved just outside the devel- opment zones, at the edge of Sqaq il-Mużew in 2018. The site currently consists of agri- cultural land. Originally the PA's planning commission had refused the application, arguing that devel- opment in the rural area was unjustified. But the EPRT ap- peals tribunal, then chaired by present PA chairman Martin Saliba, approved it as an "end of scheme" development, argu- ing it would upgrade the area by eliminating a blank party wall. Subsequently, in January 2022 the now-rejected request for a receded floor and ODZ pool area was presented by ICI Ltd, a real estate company owned by Keith Attard Portughes, which now owns the whole site. PA rejects stores along new road In May the PA had also re- jected another application by Bonavia for a 20sq.m agricul- tural store along the new road, as a replacement for another room immediately next to the medieval chapel on the land expropriated by Infrastructure Malta. Both the Environment and Resources Authority, and the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage had objected. The ERA warned dem- olition and relocation of the rural structures next to the chapel could increase pressure on new buildings along the new road. The SCH said the chapel rested on and was buttressed by the room proposed for demolition. An appeal has already been presented by Bonavia, citing a "pre-contract agreement" with Infrastructure Malta to relo- cate the stores expropriated on the other side of the road. But the PA insists that even if such an agreement exists, it is not bound by it because legal- ly its role is to ensure that any development conforms to es- tablished planning policies and rules. Planning Authority rejects pool extension for villa controversially approved at intersection of Dingli's Sqaq il-Muzew, where Graffitti and residents opposed disputed roads project Dingli road saga: PA rejects villa extension The site is where a new road was controversially developed last year by Infrastructure Malta without any planning permit, despite week-long protests by Moviment Graffitti and residents

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