Hypogeum escape room? Filfla boutique hotel with shooting range? Everything’s possible at the PA

The Skinny | No 161 – The Sheep Hotel on ODZ

Take us to the hotel...
Take us to the hotel...

What are we skinning? The inspiringly baffling – and Planning Authority-condoned – construction of a two-storey development that includes a reception centre and a swimming pool on ODZ land in Wied tal-Hzejjen, Bidnija… classed as a ‘sheep farm’.

Why are we skinning it? Because one would be hard-pressed to imagine where the sheep – famously tetchy around reception centres and no great swimmers – would fit into this equation.

But surely this was approved on the basis of at least a thin bedrock of rational logic. Thick or thin, it appears to be part and parcel of the very same bedrock that has accommodated many a Planning Authority board member over the years.

I know that bedrock. It bounces like trampoline jelly and smells faintly of plastic roses. Yes, it’s built from very strange material that nonetheless attracts the weirdest of characters, as if they were fruitflies on the prowl. Rumour has it that it may even be hallucinogenic.

You can hardly blame such addled individuals for seeing ‘sheep farm’ when the applicants clearly requested a ‘hotel’. But that’s the key word right there.

Which word? ‘Hardly’, ‘clearly’? No – ‘requested’.

Why single out that word in particular? Because that is another facet of the Planning Authority experience. If you are a consortium of highly powered and highly monied developers, all you need to do is request a permit from the Planning Authority, and you shall get it.

Even if the permit is for a sheep hotel? It could be anything. An escape room in the Hypogeum. A three storey car park underneath St John’s Co-Cathedral. A boutique hotel/shooting range on Filfla. The possibilities are endless.

But what of those badly affected by these developments? And just thinking out loud here but… has anyone ever considered their environmental impact? You could turn to the de facto leader of the construction posse on this: Michael Stivala, the head of the Malta Developers Association.

Why would I do that? For a sober, sage and deeply insightful consideration of the matter at hand, which should assuage any alienation you may feel about where the country is headed on this front.

What did he say, then? In responding to the expected criticisms about the impact of overdevelopment (in this case, along the Gzira seafront in particular) during a televised debate, Stivala said that all of this grumbling is null and void… because people are flocking to socialise on the seafront either way.

Do say: “The sham sheep farm is a slap in the face for any self-respecting member of the Maltese electorate, and unless immediate steps are taken to reverse its approval, the integrity of the Planning Authority will continue to crumble into even finer dust.”

Don’t say: “All this big song-and-dance about animal rights and the moment someone builds a structure that could house sheep in a dignified fashion, an outcry erupts! Shame on you, supposedly ‘woke’ hypocrites!”