From winery to Kiabi discount store in Burmarrad

Low cost clothes chain to replace winery lying in an outside development zone in Burmarrad

The winery is to be replaced by a French low-cost retail centre
The winery is to be replaced by a French low-cost retail centre

The French low cost textiles chain Kiabi will be opening shop in Burmarrad on the site of a former winery situated in outside development boundaries in Burmarrad. 

Kiabi was founded in Lille in 1978 on the basis of a simple concept: “To produce fashion to suit all tastes and budgets.” The brand has 451 outlets in France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Russia, Belgium, the Netherlands and Morocco. A Kiabi outlet already operates at Qormi next to Lidl.

Hudson International represents the French chain in Malta. The company represents global brands in Africa, Italy and Malta.

MEPA issued the permit for an unspecified retail outlet on the site of the former farmers winery in June.

The controversial development permit issued for a commercial development in an outside development zone in Burmarrad was only possible after the involvement of the Land Department.

The site could only be used for agricultural activities until 2063, as it was public land given to the Farmer’s Wine Co-operative in 1965 on emphyteusis to be used for wine production.

The cooperative sold the emphytheusis for €815,000 in 2008 to BCBT Properties, a company in which Burmarrad Commercials is a main shareholder. The condition on its use was lifted after the change in government.

The winery will be replaced by a retail centre having the same footprint, but which will be 1.4 metres higher. 

The development proposed by Oliver Brownrigg, who owns BT Commercial Limited, is set to include a 1,035 square metre retail area, 900 square metres of offices, storage facilities and a large surface car park for 102 cars on a paved area next to the building. 

In June three MEPA board members, including Environment Planning Commission board chairman Elisabeth Ellul, voted in favour while biologist Charles Grech voted against.  

The case officer report recommended approval of the new development, overruling the objections made by the authority’s Environment Protection Directorate. 

While the Planning Directorate considered the development as “aesthetically acceptable” and an “environmental improvement” over the present situation, the Environment Protection Directorate was firmly opposed.

The EPD considered the development unacceptable, as it would result in “new urban activities” in the countryside and in “further urban sprawl” and “excessive formalisation” in an area, which is located outside development zones. The EPD also expressed concern on the “substantial increase in hard surfacing” required for the proposed car park. 

In their submissions to MEPA the developer’s architects claimed that “the surrounding grounds have been left to deteriorate and that the site today constitutes a major eyesore in the Burmarrad area”. It was the approval of the new rural policy in 2014, which spurred the developers to embark on a project to re-develop the area, which they claimed had a “positive impact” on the environment. 

The new policy allows the demolition of existing agricultural buildings in the ODZ to be rebuilt and redeveloped. Previously, agricultural ODZ buildings such as wineries could not be redeveloped for other purposes. 

According to the developers, through the provision of adequate onsite parking, the new retail development will serve as a “regional magnet”, attracting customers from adjacent towns and relieving pressure from town centres. 

An application to set up a six-metre high pylon Kiabi sign in the new car park and a large sign on the façade of the former winery was submitted last week, thus reinforcing the urbanisation of this formerly rural hamlet.