GAP steps in to develop Ta’ Masrija

GAP Holdings have stepped in to propose the construction of 152 apartments over part of Ta’ Masrija in Mellieha.

GAP Holdings have stepped in to propose the construction of 152 apartments over part of Ta’ Masrija in Mellieha.

The application was presented just weeks after a policy review which is set to allow buildings of up to seven storeys high, on parts of the site. The proposed block will be seven storeys high above three basement levels for 174 garages.  

The proposal only covers a part of the site that lies along the Mellieha by-pass. 

Although located within development zones, the proposal is still considered sensitive as it is located on a ridge and is set to impact on views enjoyed by residents living in two or three-storey houses in the surrounding areas.

GAP – owned by Paul Attard, George Muscat and Adrian Muscat – are the developers behind Tigné’s Fort Cambridge and recently proposed the development of a 40-storey hotel right next door.

Their Mellieha application lies on part of the site where developer Michael Bharwani had formerly proposed 300 apartments in 2006, which were however never approved.

The policy that was granted final government approval last month was already approved by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority back in August. Deceptively, while MEPA’s stated objectives for the planning review was to prohibit the adoption of the floor-area-ratio (FAR) policy on this site, the new policy still permits heights of four and five floors, with increased heights of up to seven floors in some parts of the site. Only two- to three-storey buildings are allowed in surrounding area.

Under intense pressure from residents MEPA had already committed not to apply the floor-to-area ratio policy in correspondence with the Mellieha local council dating back to 2007.

But the policy was never changed, as two applications remained pending.

Residents have argued that such development would create excessive shadowing of a substantial number of properties.

Development applications for three areas on the Ta’ Masrija site, held by different owners, have been pending since 2006 because of the controversy that erupted over a proposal to build some 462 apartments, more than 700 parking spaces, a 1,025-square-metre neighbourhood centre, and a club of similar size.

Representing residents, architect Carmel Caccopardo – Alternattiva Demokratika deputy chairperson – said at the MEPA hearing in August that the new policy represented a shifting of the goalposts, as it allowed for development up to twice as intensive as the surrounding areas.

Residents who spoke at the meeting also said that the height restrictions should be identical to the surrounding area, which was characterised by two- to three-storey buildings.

The board refused a proposed amendment to minimise the visual impact by stepping down the development by reducing the building height towards the front of the site. The MEPA board claimed that the policy review was initiated after the various site owners failed to reach an agreement on a comprehensive plan as requested in the 2006 Planning Policy for Ta’ Masrija.