The Malta Independent 19 January 2020, Sunday

Sliema residents in protest against 11-storey hotel in Howard Street

Saturday, 16 November 2019, 16:02 Last update: about 3 months ago

Residents vented their frustration at the way developers are being allowed to ride roughshod over residents' rights in Sliema at a press conference held this morning at Howard Street, Sliema. Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar Coordinator Astrid Vella opened by saying that the application should be turned down as it does not respect the North Harbour Local Plan which stipulates that hotels are to be restricted to Sliema's commercial town centre and are not to be permitted in residential areas.   

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The proposed 11-storey hotel in narrow Howard Street will cause significant negative impacts on residents in terms of disturbance and traffic, as Transport Malta itself has expressed serious reservations about the lack of space provided for suppliers' trucks, coaches and vans. While the requirement of 27 garage car spaces is felt to be far too few for a hotel of 83 bedrooms, the hotel falls far short of that in providing only 15, and to make matters worse, residents will be deprived of up to 12 on-street parking bays to accommodate increased traffic.

Astrid Vella pointed out that since the Planning Authority allowed the demolition of Sliema's largest hotel, The Fortina, build on a site granted exclusively for touristic purposes, it should not now be allowing new hotels in residential areas where they are not allowed. Residents are also concerned that developers could be exploiting the MTA policy that allows extra floors on hotels in order to subsequently convert to flats which would be two floors higher that what is normally allowed. This policy stipulates that not only must the development respect the residential amenity, it only applies to high-quality hotels, however she questioned whether a hotel where 10 out of 12 bedrooms on each floor face a shaft can be considered high quality. 

Paul Radmilli of the Sliema Local Council added that the proposed hotel is hemmed in by residential buildings on all sides, and that the blank party walls it will create are not permissible under the MTA policy; the architect's attempt to add fake windows on the blank party wall did not make them acceptable

Radmilli charged the Planning Authority with using the loophole of the Flexibility Policy to pass unacceptable permits. This application does not merit such a departure from the Local Plan since under the MTA policy for additional hotel floors, the development must be neighbour compatible, have no unacceptable cumulative adverse impacts on the locality, and be justified from a planning perspective.  Radmilli noted that the applicant has not offered one single note to satisfy these three provisos.

The speakers concluded by saying that the proposed development will have a cumulative negative effect on Sliema's already congested streets, creating an urban canyon which traps air pollution which contributes to asthma, heart problems, stroke and cancer. If this permit is accepted, it will create a precedent for other hotels to be permitted all over Sliema's residential areas, reducing even further the quality of life in this town. 

 

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