Marsalforn hotel may be approved if old Xaghra farm house is retained

A 58-room hotel extending outside development zones and overlooking the valley between Marsalforn and Xaghra may still be approved if developers revise their plans further to integrate an old farmhouse previously earmarked for demolition

The Planning Authority’s planning commission has indicated that a 58-room hotel extending outside development zones and overlooking the valley between Marsalforn and Xaghra, may still be approved if developers revise their plans further to integrate an old farmhouse previously earmarked for demolition.

The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage had previously drawn attention to the presence of caves along the overhanging rock falling immediately outside the site footprint proposed for development, as well as beneath the site footprint.

The case officer’s report did not centre around the ODZ location of the hotel but focused on the demolition of the farmhouse, and referred to the potential risk posed to the caves.

This week the planning commission ordered the developers to present a restoration plan for the old building.

Although the hotel will be partly located in a rural hamlet, its footprint will extend into the neighbouring countryside.

The site presently consists of an abandoned agricultural farmhouse with a 220sq.m footprint and adjoining agricultural fields.

Hotels are not mentioned among the types of development allowed in rural hamlets in the Gozo local plan.

The only tourist development envisaged in these areas are hostels.

The development will also include two ODZ swimming pools outside the boundaries of the hamlet and an adjacent three-storey terraced house.

Both the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage and the PA’s planning directorate had objected to the demolition of the vernacular which will now be retained.

The proposed hotel will rise to four storeys and will be one metre higher than the 11.4m limit in the local plan.

Despite ERA’s objections to the urban sprawl in the vicinity of the Marsalforn valley, the Planning Directorate concluded that “the built volume, massing and height are acceptable”, after some changes to the original design by the project’s architect.

The hotel and an adjacent three-storey terraced house will be built over a footprint of 1,812sq.m of which 720sq.m will be built up.

The development originally described as a “3-star agro-tourism boutique hotel” is being proposed by developer Alfred Refalo and will be managed by Frankie Spiteri who also manages the Quaint Hotel chain in Gozo.

Project architect Stephan Vancell is an employee of EMDP, a company owned by planning commission board member Mariello Spiteri.

Spiteri did not participate in the meeting in which the application was discussed

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