Balluta Bay office development: PA approves parking spaces shortfall

Controversial development proposed green travel plan for staff that will have to be reviewed by PA in four years’ time

The Planning Authority has approved changes to a controversial development which has deleteriously jutted out onto the Balluta Bay, which would contribute to a shortfall of 55 parking spaces in this busy area of St Julian’s.

The application was the fourth piecemeal application to be presented by Michael Stivala, who is also secretary-general of the Malta Developers Association.

The latest changes were approved after Stivala was fined to the tune of €15,531.84 for carrying out most these works illegally before the permit was issued.

While the case officer had recommended a €77,65.92 fine, the Planning Commission doubled the fine because the illegal works which it later sanctioned, were carried out in a protected area.

The latest approval allows an additional floor and other works not authorised by previous permits, but which have already been carried out. This included the sanctioning of offices instead of residential units on the top floors, the development of a restaurant on ground floor and basement levels, a guest house on the first three floors in lieu of approved offices and residential units.

In November 2019 the PA had issued Stivala with an enforcement order for carrying out the works illegally.

Applying a number of parking rates for the different land uses, the proposed development requires a total of 71 parking spaces. But only 16 spaces are going to be provided, meaning a shortfall of 55 parking spaces.  It is estimated that 85 people would be working in the hotel, restaurant and offices.

In October 2019 the PA had rejected an increase in office space which was deemed excessive for a residential area, and would have had an adverse impact on the locality due to a shortfall of 63 car parking spaces, while creating a precedent for similar developments in the area.

To remedy the situation the developers have now presented a green travel plan which encourages car sharing, the frequent usage of public transport, the set-up of organised transportation, walking and cycling are encouraged. The plan foresees that by the fifth year only 10% of those using the premises will travel to it by car, 35% would use an organised transport system 30% would use public transport and 20% would walk on foot. Car parking spaces will be reserved for staff members who travel to the site, utilising the car sharing principle.

If the targets and objectives in the Green Travel Plan are not being achieved by the end of four years, the PA may require “a further period of monitoring and review”. The PA also reserves the right to request further submissions or additional samples, and to impose any further conditions as deemed necessary during the progress of monitoring and review.

The development was originally approved as a mix of offices and residences.    

While the facade of the old townhouse facing the St Julian’s High Street was retained, an imposing back-end structure located just off the Barracuda restaurant has radically changed the appearance of Balluta Bay with the building’s upper floors jutting out over the sea itself.

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