Planning Authority refuses St Julian’s project opposed by residents and mayor

PA strongly objected in principle to this project, saying residential and commerical project wou;d compromise character of St Julian’s village core area

The Planning Commission unanimously rejected a planning application which sought to construct 54 residential units, two retail outlets and underlying parking facilities within a large vacant plot fronting two parallel streets in the Urban Conservation Area (UCA) of St Julians’.

The commission strongly objected in principle to this project, saying the proposed massing and height will compromise the character of St Julian’s village core area.

Although in the Local Plan this site is earmarked as an ‘Opportunity Site’, the Commission pointed out that any future development must respect the surrounding urban environment. The Commission also noted that the residential project will create an internal development which is not permissible in UCAs.

The demolition of an existing townhouse to access the site from Triq it-Telgha ta’ Birkirkara was also considered to be unacceptable for the Commission.

Although along the processing of the application the commercial element was reduced considerably from the proposal, the project still retained a high number of one-bedroom dwellings. This policy only allows for there to be up to a maximum of 20% of the total number of dwellings which is equivalent to 11 units. The project was proposing 33 units.      

Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar welcomed the PA decision.

Objecting to the project, Perit Jesmond Mugliet  explained that since the site has a​​specific Local Plan policy ​it ​should be developed comprehensively ​through​ a masterplan for the entire site ​to ensure proper planning. Mugliett dismissed the developers’ overnight submission to narrow the exit to 3.5m, saying that it was unthinkable to propose such a dangerously narrow exit to serve both cars and pedestrians.​ In addition to the lack of traffic studies, Mugliett decried the fact that crucial excavation data was also missing.

Speaking on behalf of Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar (FAA), Astrid Vella highlighted the fact that the PA’s Design Guidance policy stipulates that demolition of buildings within the UCA will not normally be considered, while development within historic sites is to ensure that historic sites’ skyline and streetscape are not adversely affected, which precludes the building of a four-storey block in a two-storey area.

“B’Kara Hill is the only part of the St Julian’s village core that is still intact, lined by beautiful old houses, a unique atmosphere that this project would destroy as well as undermining residents’ health due to the air pollution generated by an additional 250 cars in these narrow streets.

“Since the developers were claiming ownership issues precluded them from immediately applying on the full site, the same issues risked that the second project would be locked in without an exit. The more likely explanation, she opined, was that the developers split the site in order to avoid the studies necessary for a larger project, an exercise in illegal ‘salami slicing’.” 

St Julian’s mayor Albert Buttigieg gave an impassioned plea to save what’s left of the St Julian’s village core. He protested that developers were turning all of St Julian’s into another Paceville, pushing lifelong residents out due to the constant upheaval, noise and pollution from all the construction in the area.

“Since many St Julian’s residents are old, they cannot even participate in the planning process which is a grave injustice. He emphasised that the Local Council is not against justified commerce, but its first duty is to protect residents’ quality of life and urged the Commission to do the same,” Buttigieg said.

In voting against the project, PA chairman Martin Camilleri said that it it did not fit the character of the surrounding area, and that internal developments are not allowed in UCAs.

“FAA is hugely appreciative of the Planning Commission’s unanimous decision not only to respect regulations but also to make a priory of the heritage value of the area and interests of local residents.

“FAA along with residents and Mayor Albert Buttigieg have been fighting this case for over two years, there-fore the outcome is not only gratifying, but should encourage residents opposing other abusive development that there is hope to see the tide turning in favour of protection of Malta’s heritage and quality of life,” Vella said.

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