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MALTATODAY 6 November 2022

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8 NEWS maltatoday | SUNDAY • 6 NOVEMBER 2022 JAMES DEBONO A Planning Authority case officer is recom- mending the approval of an 11-storey hotel by developer Michael Stivala in Gżira. The property would replace an old, der- elict farmhouse standing between lower and upper Parisio street at the intersection with Triq Moroni. The hotel is being proposed in a part of Sliema zoned as a 'residential area' in the local plan, where hotels are not allowed. But the case officer invoked a policy on 'consolidation and regeneration initiatives' – considering similar commitments just a short distance away on the Gżira seafront – that gives the PA flexibility in assessing tourism development if it is compatible with the surrounding neighbourhood. The generic policy only applies when the proposed building height does not exceed that found in the local plans. Although this part of Sliema limits heights to four storeys with a semi-base- ment, the proposed 24.2m height falls in line with the 2015 guidelines that trans- lates 11 storeys into 22m heights. Then the local plan also contemplates an extra sto- rey, over and above height limits for hotels in Sliema. So Stivala's 11 storeys are achieved with- out even applying the 'Height Limitation Adjustment Policy' that gives hotels two extra storeys over and above the local plan. The development is also stepped down from Triq Moroni to Triq Parisio. The approval of the new hotel was facil- itated by a change of heart on the part of the Superintendence for Cultural Herit- age: back in September 2021, it had "grave concern" at the intensity of the hotel with its "very considerable heights and volumes, which will bear onto the scheduled gar- dens of Villa Bonici". The inevitable dem- olition of the existing farmhouse would also "generally not be viewed favourably by the Superintendence". Illegal works abutting Villa Bonici's garden walls, which transformed a yard into a car park, had al- so "prejudiced the integrity of the garden wall" – but these were later sanctioned by the Planning Authority after Stivala pre- sented plans to stabilise the rock section underlying the garden wall. But at seeing the photomontages of the proposed hotel, the Superintendence de- scribed the proposal "as acceptable in prin- ciple" since it incorporates suitable terrac- ing away from the scheduled gardens. The SCH dropped its objection after ac- knowledging a zoning permit from 2017, that had approved the demolition of a building to make way for both a residen- tial development and a pedestrian link be- tween the upper and lower part of Parisio Street, with the hotel stepping up from seven to 11 storeys, the top four storeys being receded. One of the conditions proposed by the case officer is that of a tripartite agreement between the applicant, the Local Council, and the Planning Authority for the "im- plementation and maintenance of the pe- destrian passageway and a storm-water culvert" linking upper and lower Parisio street. JAM ES DEBONO 72 new rooms could be add- ed to the Pergola Hotel with a request by Daniel Grima's G3 Hospitality to add three new storeys to the existing Mellieħa hotel. The seven-story hotel fol- lows the height of the Triq Adenau public staircase, rising just one storey over Triq is-Snajjin, where its hotel pool enjoys direct views of the Mellieħa parish church. The area is presently char- acterised by three-storey housing, while the hotel abuts on a scheduled Cold War underground flour mill built by the British in case of a nuclear attack, also found in Triq Snajjin. The application, still at its initial stages, is an 'outline permit', meaning that the Planning Authority is first asked to assess the develop- ment in principle, including the proposed heights. The actual design of the extend- ed hotel will be approved at a later stage through a full development application. Photomontages of the im- pact on the surrounding neighbourhood and te sen- sitive views of the church, are expected during the processing of the applica- tion. While a recent Deloitte study shows Malta needs over 4.7 million tourists over the next six years just to ensure full hotel bed ca- pacity, new hotels are con- tinuously being proposed in the face of market satu- ration. Over the past weeks new applications for hotel de- velopment were presented in Xlendi, where a 14-sto- rey hotel is being proposed, in Valletta on the site of the Mattia Preti house, and in St Julian's on the site of Vil- la Sirdar. Domino effect in St Julian's with demand to raise Sirdar heights JAMES DEBONO THE owners of a St Julian's home seeking the green light for a five-storey boutique hotel development, are citing a prec- edent from a similar permit for the adjacent St George's Villa, near the City of London pub by the Main Street. Sirdar House's owners are ig- noring an appeals tribunal de- cision that limited development on another neighbouring villa, Villa Leoni, to two extra storeys. Architects for owner Andrea Zammit Tabona are trying to justify an additional five floors on top of the 19th century town- house, by referring to existing planning commitments for the neighbouring properties. The Planning Authority has al- ready approved five new floors on the adjacent St George's Vil- la, in a series of permits issued between 2014 and 2020. But the streetscape plan presented by architect Edwin Mintoff al- so shows four new storeys on Villa Leoni, as proposed back in 2018 for a four-star hotel by owner Ray Zammit. The plan al- so refers to the potential height of the townhouse, set between Villa Leoni and Sirdar House, on which no application had been presented. But this plan ignores a decision by the Environment and Plan- ning Review Tribunal, which limits the part of the develop- ment overlooking Main Street, to five floors, one of which re- ceded. The Superintendence for Cul- tural Heritage has already asked the developers to correct this plan. "Given the architect's at- tempt to justify proposed height in terms of existing commit- ments, the architect is immedi- ately asked to amend the street- scape drawing, amending in particular the pro-posed height of Villa Leoni, so as to reflect the direction given by the EPRT in its ruling on the matter." The Planning Authority had originally refused the applica- tion to convert Villa Leoni and its garden into a hotel. But the decision was partly overturned by the EPRT in February 2022, while setting conditions to re- duce the height, and retain the existing building – not just its façade – completely. The Sirdar House conversion foresees its complete internal demolition and the retention of the façade. The Superintendence for Cul- tural Heritage has yet to inspect the property before any final recommendations but has ex- pressed concern at the "intensity of the proposed development, which includes extensive exca- vation and increase in volumes, with inevitable impact on the fabric and the architectural leg- ibility of the property." While not excluding addition- al storeys, the SCH insists that "any increase in height as may be permitted is to maintain tra- ditional proportions at the first floor and is to follow terracing along the street, following the lie of the land." Sirdar House dates to the late 19th century and is located with- in the Urban Conservation Area of St Julian's. The Superintend- ence has recognised "the evident architectural value" of the prop- erty, insisting that this "warrants appropriate treatment". So far, over 140 objections have been presented against the applica- tion. Mellieha: Pergola Hotel wants to go higher Stivala 11-storey hotel near Villa Bonici set for approval

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