The Malta Independent 13 August 2022, Saturday

Ramla Bay resort redevelopment goes before PA board today

Semira Abbas Shalan Thursday, 4 August 2022, 08:58 Last update: about 9 days ago

A proposal to redevelop the Ramla Bay resort in Mellieħa will be debated by the Planning Authority Board today.

The application filed by Holden Development Company Limited, seeks permission to demolish the existing hotel, excavate the site, and construct a new hotel in its place.

The proposed new hotel will have 396 rooms, a gym, a diving centre and water sports facilities, retail outlets, bars, restaurants, and ancillary facilities including an indoor and an outdoor pool, multipurpose halls and a parking area. The building will in total have eight levels.

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The site of the resort is located outside the limits for development (ODZ), along the northern shore of the Marfa Peninsula within the limits of Mellieħa. Areas of Ecological Importance in the area include ir-Ramla tal-Bir and Ramlet il-Qortin.  The site is also within the area of influence of some Natura 2000 sites.

The Environment and Resources Authority had conducted an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The EIA Report had identified major significant residual impacts on visual amenity and geology (due to extraction of resources and features). Other impacts identified included issues relating to hydrology, terrestrial ecology, cultural heritage and landscape character depend largely on the thorough implementation of pre-emptive safeguards, and construction and operational mitigation measures. Moreover, an Appropriate Assessment report was conducted, which did not identify significant impacts related to avifauna, provided only that the proposed good environmental practices and mitigation measures are duly implemented. The AA report concluded that the proposal and associated works are not expected to affect the Natura 2000 sites in the surrounding area.

After the assessment of the proposal and also considering the consultants’ evaluation, the ERA did not object to the proposal, but pointed out certain outstanding considerations and made a number of requests. In view of this, the architect has submitted revised plans and visuals and ERA gave its no objection subject to conditions,” the case officer’s report read.

The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage drew attention to the presence of significant structures having cultural heritage value in the immediate vicinity of the development, namely the Tal-Bir redoubt, which is a Grade I building, a building scheduled for the highest level of protection available.

The SCH noted that the increase in the height limitations of the newly proposed hotel will have a visual impact on the redoubt, as the views of Marfa/Mellieha as seen from Comino and from seacraft in the Gozo Channel “will forever be conditioned and marred by the enormous volume extending above the existing skyline.” The SCH however, also noted that this redoubt has already been significantly impacted by the existing hotel, and the proposed change will only have a moderate impact.

The Development Management Directorate said that since the SCH’s concerns regarding the building were made, the proposal went throughout a partial redesign of the upper part of the buildings, and the latest proposal reflects a lessening in the overall volume reducing the curve of the atria and the screening for services which have been partially relocated to another level. Given this, the Development Management Directorate is of the opinion that the issues raised by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage in terms of visual aspect fall within the remit of the Planning Authority.”

The conclusions drawn up in the Case Officer Report read that the Development Management Directorate is recommending the proposed development for approval, in view that it is “in line with the Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development (SPED), with the North West Local Plan (NWLP) and with the Development Control Design Policy Guidance and Standards (DC15).”

The case officer’s report read that “the project will promote a re-branding of the Maltese Islands as a destination of choice worldwide.”

A total of seven representations were received in objection to the project, notably from environment NGOs Din l-Art Helwa, Friends of Earth Malta and Nature Trust.

Some of the objections read that the proposal is considered to be a degradation of the natural landscape. Some read that the proposal would have a detrimental effect on a Grade I scheduled building. Concerns were also raised regarding light and noise pollution, which will threaten seabirds and other avifauna and migrating species, among other things.

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