Comino luxury villas will extend onto island garigue

Heritage and environment authorities welcome hotel downsizing but express concern on expansion of bungalows on garigue

The villa area as proposed. The villa area is located at Santa Marija Bay, and the spread of teh villa units will be extending beyond their current footprint
The villa area as proposed. The villa area is located at Santa Marija Bay, and the spread of teh villa units will be extending beyond their current footprint

A Hili Ventures project to redevelop the Comino hotel into a zero-carbon footprint bungalow complex will extend into undeveloped land of ecological importance, including garigue.

Both the environment and heritage authorities welcomed the downsizing of the existing hall, but expressed serious concerns on the expansion of the bungalow village overlooking Santa Marija bay.

The proposed hotel and 21-villa complex is being marketed as one that will marry sustainable design to  architecture that will respect the natural surroundings, to generate a zero-carbon footprint.

Photos of the Hili Investments zero carbon hotel complex
Photos of the Hili Investments zero carbon hotel complex

In its first assessment, the ERA said the proposed extension of the bungalow village was “intensified in this particular area”.

The ERA said the hotel project was an improvement over the present situation, describing it as a “rationalization of areas of scattered outbuildings”. And while welcoming the hotel’s downsizing, the ERA wants the coastal area between the hotel and foreshore should “be rehabilitated” and “formal interventions and hard landscaping” be kept to a minimum.

Photos of the Hili Investments zero carbon hotel complex
Photos of the Hili Investments zero carbon hotel complex

The ERA is also concerned by plans to develop a belvedere and underground spa adjacent to a scenic, steep-sided, natural inlet that characterises the headland between the bays of San Niklaw and Dahlet il-Hmara. Noting this is being proposed very close to “one of the island’s natural geomorphological heritage features”, ERA is calling for the relocation of the proposed structures to a less sensitive area.

Photos of the Hili Investments zero carbon hotel complex
Photos of the Hili Investments zero carbon hotel complex

Project risks undermining Comino’s character – SCH

The Superintendence for Cultural expressed “great concern” on the extent and intensity of the proposed development, noting that that this will have “inevitable negative impacts which will alter the nature of Comino as a rural, largely uninhabited island”.

The extensive excavation to accommodate swimming pools, reservoirs and a sewage treatment plant could have a detrimental impact on the cultural landscape, a characteristic of such a small barren island.

The Superintendence also expressed concern on the proposed berthing facilities, warning that these will alter the character of the existing natural coastline in an “unacceptable manner”. It warned against upgrading existing pathways into roads while reiterating its stance against a parallel application to extend a pier at the Blue lagoon as currently being proposed by the government.

Hotel project

The 21 villas will have a footprint of over 5,200sq.m, almost 2,000 sq.m more than that presently covered by existing bungalows. They will include an additional 500sq.m in swimming pools, 4,200sq.m of concrete landscaping, soft landscaping for gravel over garigue. Dirt roads will cover 5,000sq.m and a further 1,500sq.m will be stone and wooden terraces outside the villa area.

The total area disturbed by development in this area will increase from the existing 16,000sq.m to 20,000sq.m. But the ERA says the development should be downsized and contained within the existing developed footprint of the existing bungalows.

The Comino hotel at San Niklaw bay will be demolised together with the Santa Marija bungalows, but the replacement hotel – reduced from 29,000sq.m to 22,000sq.m – and villas will be on a larger footprint altogether.

The redevelopent will require a sewage treatment plant and reservoirs, as well as a  solar farm instead of the pig farm, and the restoration and conversion of a 19th century isolation hospital, for accommodation purposes.

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