PA set to approve 152 apartments at Ta’ Masrija, another 47 proposed

Newly proposed development to overlook Triq il-Masrija, adjacent to the GAP development

An artist's impression of the Ta' Masrija development in Mellieha
An artist's impression of the Ta' Masrija development in Mellieha

As the Planning Authority’s board meet today to decide whether to approve an application by GAP Developments to construct 152 apartments and 168 garages at ta’ Masrija, a new application has popped up to construct 47 apartments and 40 garages on an adjacent site.

The newly proposed development will overlook Triq il-Masrija and is being proposed on a site adjacent to the GAP development. The new application set over 1,730 square metres of land consists of six levels and a penthouse and is being proposed by Jason Mifsud.

The piecemeal approach to development in the area is the result of a change in policy through which the requirement for a comprehensive plan for the area was removed. 

The GAP development is being recommended for approval by the case officer.

According to the case officer the GAP application abides by the criteria of policies applying for the area. The case officer report warns that the GAP development will be the first one of its extent and height in the area and that other future developments will follow suit.

GAP will be expected to contribute €193,000 as a planning gain for the required improvements to the junction at Triq il-Mithna l-Qadima and Mizieb.  The cost of the new junction totalling €740,000 will be split among all developers of different plots.  

GAP has also presented an addendum to the original EIA for the project, detailing the visual impact of their application from  sensitive views from Mizieb and Wardija, claiming an improvement over plans presented in 2006 which foresaw the application of the floor area ratio mechanism, a controversial planning mechanism allowing extra floors in return for more open spaces. 

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 approved in 2015 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 areas. 

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. The council had opposed an original application for 462 apartments, more than 700 parking spaces, a 1,025-square-metre neighbourhood centre, and a club of similar size. 

The GAP application was presented in November 2015 just two 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 168 garages.   

The GAP 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. 

Residents have argued that such development would create excessive shadowing of a substantial number of properties. In 2015 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.