Corinthia may build 25 villas at Ħal Ferħ in local plan change proposal

Proposed changes to Ħal Ferħ development brief and local plan will allow Corinthia to build 25 villas alongside a ‘flagship hotel’ on site previously earmarked for luxury timeshare suites

An artist's impression of the redevelopment of the abandoned Ħal Ferħ complex as approved in 2013. The Corinthia Group wants to develop a 'flagship hotel' and villas instead.
An artist's impression of the redevelopment of the abandoned Ħal Ferħ complex as approved in 2013. The Corinthia Group wants to develop a 'flagship hotel' and villas instead.

Corinthia will be able to build 25 villas on the site of the former Ħal Ferħ complex, if a policy change proposal goes through.

The complex in Għajn Tuffieħa is covered by a specific development brief that currently allows the development of the site into a low-lying timeshare facility.

However, the Corinthia Group had asked the Planning Authority for a change in the brief and the local plan to be allowed to have a mixed development that includes residential units.

The proposed changes that are subject to public consultation will allow the company to develop the villas over a land area of 30,600sq.m – equivalent to four football grounds.

The entire project will remain “predominantly touristic”.

In their submissions to the Planning Authority, Corinthia said their “overarching intention is to create a flagship luxury hotel” on the same site.

The policy refers to the need for a new development permit to amend a permit already issued in 2013. 

Building heights on the site are still limited to two floors (8.5m) and the developable area to 16,700sq.m but the proposal includes a degree of flexibility.

The new policy states that the PA “may consider alternative site layouts and designs which it deems still achieve high quality design objectives”.

Corinthia justified the change of policy claiming that the concept of timeshare has faded in relevance globally and the currently permitted scheme, with its focus on mass tourism and vacation ownership, is no longer a viable concept.

In April, the government had asked the PA to change the local plan to permit Corinthia to develop residential development.  

The Planning Authority has now published amendments to the local plan enacting this change.

The new planning parameters have been introduced “to establish a balanced allowance for residential use as directed by government”, the PA said.

The proposed policy also states that gates, walls, fences and other barriers beyond what is minimally required for property delineation will be strongly discouraged.

Moreover, the main land use permitted in the former complex must remain one, which is “predominantly” touristic.

The policy draft is being reissued for public consultation.

The land originally belonged to government-owned Air Malta but was handed back to the government as part of a financial rescue package for the airline under the Gonzi administration. The land was then transferred to the Island Hotels Group for tourist development.

Island Hotels Group was issued a permit in 2013 for an €80 million project of 228 luxury suites, pools, bars and restaurants for a timeshare complex.

However, the company was eventually bought by the Corinthia Group’s International Hotel Investments. No works have ever been carried out on the site yet.

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