Guesthouse approval in St Julian’s Għomor valley still ‘objectionable’ – ERA

The Environment and Resources Authority has warned against the approval of a guesthouse to replace two new dwellings outside the development zones in Wied Għomor

The ERA insists the existing structure is not adequate to accommodate a guesthouse without future changes or extensions, such as “ancillary developments to the pool, the construction of a garage and additional parking area… which would further degrade the underlying valley”
The ERA insists the existing structure is not adequate to accommodate a guesthouse without future changes or extensions, such as “ancillary developments to the pool, the construction of a garage and additional parking area… which would further degrade the underlying valley”

The Environment and Resources Authority has warned against the approval of a guesthouse to replace two new dwellings outside the development zones in Wied Għomor, fearing it will open the floodgates for more development in the valley.

A previous application for the Wied Għomor guesthouse ‘The Valley’ was already withdrawn by applicant Karl Camilleri last year, following reports that it was operating without a planning permit.

The latest application again asks for permission to link the two existing dwellings, and change their use for a guesthouse with 11 rooms and guest apartment. It also refers to a licence issued by the Malta Tourism Authority for the two properties to host English-language students.

But the ERA insists the existing structure is not adequate to accommodate a guesthouse without future changes or extensions, such as “ancillary developments to the pool, the construction of a garage and additional parking area… which would further degrade the underlying valley”.

The site has already been subject to a number of piecemeal applications, which resulted in additional commitments, and formalisation of the area. “Two previous applications already approved by the PA, were utilised as stepping stones leading to this application, despite ERA’s concerns.”

In fact, the building in Wied Għomor is covered by planning permission for two residential villas and swimming pools, which were approved in place of two dilapidated structures by successive permits in 2017 and 2018. As soon as the permits were approved, the owners filed a further application to change the use of the buildings into a 12-room guesthouse.

Although the proposal will retain the same footprint of the existing buildings, ERA said the plans were “strongly objectionable” from an environmental point of view.

The villas approved by the PA in 2017 during the electoral campaign are situated off Triq Mikiel Ang Borg, close to Spinola Bay. They were originally recommended for approval, with no mention made of the fact that the guesthouse was accepting bookings without a valid planning permit.

In September 2019, the PA’s planning commission was set to reject the permit due to illegal use, as well as citing rural policy guidelines that only allow a change-of-use for ODZ buildings if the replacement “would result in a wider environmental benefit”. The application, which had a favourable recommendation by the case officer, was withdrawn before being referred to a formal decision.

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