40-storey Fort Cambridge tower hotel shaved down to 31

Fort Cambridge tower hotel down 11 metres from 40 to 31 storeys, but but number of guest rooms to increase from 368 to 375

The developers of a 40-storey tower hotel on the former Fort Cambridge officers’ mess in Tigné, Sliema, have presented news plans that scale down the hotel by 11 metres.

Fort Cambridge developers GAP Ltd presented plans for a 31-storey hotel which still envisage the obliteration of a sizeable part of the historical barracks. The application is still awaiting a decision by the Planning Authority as to whether these barracks should be granted protection or not.

The original tower will be scaled down to 123 metres. But even despite the COVID-19 crisis in Malta, the public is still being expected to send its feedback on the development - deadline 8 May.

The change in height reflects the removal of the hotel’s conference facilities, which gave way to an increase in rooms from 368 to 375.

The design was also changed from a stepped pyramidical structure, to a rectangular pencil development rising above the Tigné skyline, complementing the 28-storey Townsquare project near Villa Drago.

The height reduction was widely anticipated following the revocation of Townsquare’s original 38-storey application last year.

Yet one major obstacle for the development is that the policy permitting high-rise hotels specifically bans such developments on scheduled historical buildings.

The PA still has to decide on a request to schedule the building by the Sliema Local council. The building’s historical importance was recognised in studies included in the Environment Impact Assessment which recommended Grade 2 scheduling for the buildings, a status which normally precludes substantial changes.

Photomontages for the new development suggest that most of the original barracks will be demolished with only parts of the façade being retained.

The Fort Cambridge officers’ mess was built between 1903 and 1905. The building was designed according to the standard officers’ mess designs that were used during this period. In 1915 the building was used as a military hospital.

Because the site of the proposed tower hotel amounts to 2,508 sq.m, 1,770 sq.m of which will be built up, the development cannot be approved under the Floor Area Ratio policy, a framework to allow higher buildings only on 4,000 sq.m sites surrounded by streets on all sides; half of which must be retained as an open space.

The project’s EIA consultants claim the decrease in storeys will reduce anticipated traffic generation and the resultant noise and air pollution levels due to a reduction of conferences, meetings and conventions which would have been organised in the hotel.

The 2007 development brief for the land on which Fort Cambridge was leased to GAP Ltd for €54 million, had excluded development on the historical barracks. But the brief itself is legally not mentioned in the deed signed with Gap Holdings in 2007. In 2016 former parliamentary secretary for lands Deborah Schembri confirmed with MaltaToday that since the 2007 deed does not take into account the development brief that guided Gap Holdings, the Government Property Division “has to honour the original deed” – that would imply that no renegotiation of the lease price or any changes are being considered.

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