The Malta Independent 13 June 2024, Thursday
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PA approves application to transform Villa St Ignatius into hotel

Thursday, 6 June 2024, 17:11 Last update: about 7 days ago

The PA on Thursday approved a planning application which will transform Villa St Ignatius in the Balluta area into a four-star hotel which will see three additional set-back floors constructed at the back of the villa.

The new extension would accommodate hotel rooms and suites, but the development was approved despite local plan policies for the area specifically banning hotel developments and designating the site as purely residential.

The villa is situated in Scicluna Street and once formed part of the Jesuit’s College.  It has existed since at least 1839.

Nine out of the PA’s ten present board members voted in favour of the project on the basis that the redevelopment of the building would allow it to be restored in a sensitive manner, even if that meant it was to be turned into a hotel.

The case officer had recommended that the project be approved, despite the local plan designation, citing another policy in its stead which supports regeneration initiatives.

The case officer in fact said that the hotel proposal “will contribute to the upkeep and conservation of the site without compromising its heritage features”.

The villa, which is currently dilapidated, will be turned into a 64-room hotel which will include a restaurant and breakfast/bar area, an outdoor heated pool and deck area, a spa, an exhibition space, two levels of multi-purpose hall area, an outdoor catering area within the front garden, and two levels of underground parking.

It is being proposed by developer Paul Gauci.

The development was also approved despite the fact that a request to schedule the building was still pending.

The Planning Authority approved the redevelopment despite a pending decision on a request to schedule the building.  The request has been pending since 2017.

That was around the same time that the villa made headlines after part of it was suddenly demolished under the pretext of safety.

Residents strongly objected to the project on the basis of the breaches to the North Harbour Local Plan, arguing that accepting it would mean that the PA is breaking the law.

The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage had initially said that the building should be scheduled before any decision on a development on the site is taken, but later changed its mind, allowing for the development to be granted.

Architect Antoine Zammit, who specialises in the conservation of historical properties, told the board that the proposed development was adding value to the run-down 19th-century villa.

Zammit also said that the development as proposed makes a clear distinction between the historic parts of the villa which will be preserved and restored with the new additions being proposed on annexes that were added at a later stage.

He also argued that a hotel development made more sense than a residential development which could have seen the development of the villas’ front garden which would have ended up enveloping the villa itself.

“Our intention is to give more value to the villa, retaining its front garden and creating a public space where people can appreciate its beauty of this villa,” he said.

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