The Malta Independent 12 May 2021, Wednesday

New plans for former Grand Hotel Verdala to be decided on by Planning Authority this week

Albert Galea Monday, 3 May 2021, 08:29 Last update: about 8 days ago

New plans for the former Grand Hotel Verdala in Rabat will be decided upon by the Planning Authority board on Thursday.

The plans, which would see the total demolition of the existing Grand Hotel Verdala, involve the construction of 3 separate blocks, with a height of 6 floors above the highest street level and two basement levels.

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One block will include 39 apartments and three shops, the second block will include 47 apartments, and the third block will include a hotel consisting of 17 serviced apartments and 26 guest rooms. 

The proposal also includes the provision of 176 parking spaces.

The proposal before the PA is a full development application, and it builds upon an outline development permit for a development of this nature which was approved by the PA in April 2020.

It will replace the Grand Hotel Verdala, which has laid derelict and unused for over two decades.

Located on a ridge, the hotel had significantly altered the Rabat skyline when it was inaugurated in 1971 as a 160-bedroom five-star hotel. It ceased operations in 1997 and was intended for redevelopment by construction magnate Angelo Xuereb.

That project included an 18- hole golf course stretching down into the valley, a proposal which prompted major controversy and opposition from environmentalists and which was finally rejected by the planning authority.

Xuereb then applied to demolish the derelict hotel and split the large building mass into three blocks, introducing publicly accessible space in between the blocks.

The plans show a slightly altered design to that approved in the outline application, with even the height of the project being lowered slightly.

The design itself got the green light form the PA’s Design Advisory Committee, while the project’s case officer referred to the visual impact assessment carried out for the outline application, noting that the extends further laterally than the existing building, however it is lower in height when viewed from particular viewpoints.

The case officer noted that the existing hotel has a height that varies between five and seven floors and has been an identifiable landmark on the skyline, which directly affected Rabat and Mdina for a number of decades.

“The existing scenario creates an eyesore due to its location on the edge of the ridge and since it does not permit an adequate transition between the urban topography characterised with three-storey residential development and the rural context”, the case officer’s report reads.

The report concludes that the project includes the necessary design principles such as the reduction of existing height, the introduction of terraced setbacks, the continuation of the urban fabric within the development zone, and the introduction of open spaces to the general public.

Therefore, the case officer concluded that the impact of the current proposal when compared to the existing development ranges from “not significant to moderately positive”.

The Environment & Resources Authority (ERA) had concluded in its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that, given the site context and the previous development, there were no overriding reservations from an environmental point of view.

Other entities such as the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and Transport Malta also had no objection to the proposals.

The case officer also noted that the 176 parking spaces being created by the project is 37 more than what is needed, satisfying the parking requirement of 139 parking spaces.

A planning contribution of 84,175 was calculated to be applicable for the project. This shall be used to fund environmental and urban improvement projects, traffic management, green transport and similar projects in the locality of the site as directed by the Planning Authority.

The case officer, given all of the above, recommended that the project be granted.

The Planning Authority board will make a final decision on the project on Thursday.

 

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