The Malta Independent 20 May 2022, Friday

Four-star hotel application on Augustinian land in Paceville to be decided on Thursday

Kevin Schembri Orland Tuesday, 4 December 2018, 09:53 Last update: about 4 years ago

The application for a new 138-room four-star hotel adjacent to Bay Street is set to be decided this Thursday by the Planning Authority Board.

The application caused quite some controversy. It was revealed earlier this year that the land, which has been used as a makeshift car park, is to be rented out to the owners of the Bay Street Complex, and will be developed by Bay Street Holdings, whose owners include George Muscat of GAP Holdings and Paul Camilleri.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna had asked the Church’s Environment Commission to look into the deal. The environment commission, in their report on 5 October, recommended that the plans be revisited because “the development is contrary to the Floor Area Ratio policy; The site is not amenable to the development of a tall building (i.e. a building higher than 10 floors. A twelve-storey façade overlooking Upper Triq Santu Wistin is excessive, and badly impinges on nearby residents and users of the street. The proposed twelve-storey building is excessively close to the priory which is a scheduled Grade 2 building”.

“If any development at the St Rita site is to be carried out, then the KA believes that this should take place within a public consultation exercise that determines the optimal use of such a site, and not exclusively in terms of future revenue streams for the owners, but in terms of the future benefits that can accrue to the Paceville/Swieqi communities and visitors to the area,” the Church Environment commission had said.

The provincial of the Augustinian order, which owns the land in question, has defended the project. Fr Leslie Gatt had said that the income from the deal would help the order invest in its religious, social and educational efforts. He added that the money would also go towards the restoration and upkeep of several historic buildings owned by the order, which are part of the country’s heritage.

The proposed development aims to provide a four-star accommodation with a total number of 138 guestrooms with an approximate area of 28sqm each, the case officer’s report read.

The site has a trapezoidal shape and has frontages on two different roads: a 75.1metres frontage on Sqaq Lourdes and a 66metres frontage on Triq Santu Wistin. “It covers an area of circa 2,192 square metres (sqm) which until recently was used as an open parking area at street level accommodating 94 car parking spaces having access from Sqaq Lourdes. The proposal is located within the limits of the Residential Buffer Zone of Paceville.” The site lies on the southern flank of St George’s Bay in Paceville, on the lower grounds at the front part of St Rita Chapel/St Augustine Convent which are Grade 2 scheduled buildings

The site will have six underground levels for parking, which will also house a gym, sauna and pool, a conference room and games room. It will also rise to 12 levels above ground, which includes the ground floor. In total, there will be 231 car parking spaces.

The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, as well as others raised concerns about the proposed development, being that it is located in the vicinity of a Grade 2 scheduled property (Monks Convent of St. Augustine and St. Rita Chapel) of architectural value.

The case officer’s report notes that the architect submitted correspondence stating that the restoration of the Santa Rita Chapel will improve the visual amenity and upgrading of the surrounding location, since the building is currently in a severely neglected state. “Moreover, the proposed introduction of a public piazza is a positive contribution to the area acting as a contemporary parvis in which various activities can take place. The open space features movable benches and movable planters such that the space can be manipulated in order to host various functions with different spatial requirements, therefore increasing the degree of pedestrian activity aiding in the revitalising of the place.”

The case officer, in his report, noted that “the four-star accommodation will provide a good transition between the commercial and residential activity considering its layout and site coverage which is focused towards the noisy entertainment hub and the open space is planned to be located next to the quiet residential area.”

In terms of height limitations, “The proposal therefore falls within the allowable height of 32.2m as previously described and the provisions of the Hotels policy.”

Din L-Art Helwa had filed a representation letter, arguing that DLH is concerned with the effects of such a large scale construction, namely the traffic congestion it will cause, the large exposed blank party wall created and the grade 2 scheduled building which will be overpowered by this towering structure next to it.

The case officer recommended that the project be approved.

 

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