Santana hoteliers resurrect Dingli eco-spa hotel plans

Second attempt to turn derelict explosives factory into a tourist resort in Dingli, adjacent to a Natura 2000 site

The explosives factory in Dingli
The explosives factory in Dingli

A second attempt has been launched to turn a derelict explosives factory into a tourist resort in Dingli, adjacent to a Natura 2000 site.

The downsized proposal for the eco-spa resort – consisting of 10 single-story blocks each with a pool – was first presented in June 2020, but the deals of the latest application was only published in the last days.

La Toc Ltd’s previous plans, presented first in 2017, were of 11 blocks and a restaurant, as well as a 64-car park requiring extensive excavation. The plans were objected to by the local council and environmental NGOs.

The company is owned by Veli Holdings, Dirk Hili, and Bianca Anastasi. But the latest proposal is being made by Sunroute Hotels, a company owned by Adrian Sant, Christopher Sant, Maria Sant and Sarah Sant, which currently owns the Santana Hotel in St Paul’s Bay.

The development is being proposed over a 6,275sqm site and lies in a Natura 2000 site set between l-Irdum ta’ l-Iħfar and ix-Xagħra tal-Qaws. The factory is located on high ground overlooking the scenic Mtaħleb and Dingli cliffs. The immediately surrounding areas are dominated by garigue hat extends all along the cliffs and along the fringes of existing agricultural land.

Although contained within the footprint of the disused explosives factory, the existing building is still being used as a pretext for tourist development in what is a pristine and protected area, where such development would not be normally allowed.

And while the present plans do not include a restaurant and parking facilities, a commitment for tourist development on the site could increase pressure for such developments in the future.

The Pulvitch explosives factory has 36 one-room stores, approved in 1977, and used for the production of explosives used in the quarrying industry. After the factory was abandoned, several applications proposing new uses for the site were refused by the PA.

In its first reaction the Environment and Resources Authority still expressed its overall concern that the presence of an explosives factory is being used as a pretext to introduce a new commitment on site. Noting that hazardous developments such as explosives factories have to be located away from residential areas, such developments should not “serve as a pretext for committing sites for further development.”

But in an apparent change of heart from its firmer stance against the previously proposed development, ERA noted that “compared to what has been proposed in previous applications, the proposed development has been downsized and generally contained within the existing massing”.

The ERA is recommending further consolidation of the built-up areas towards the central part of the site and allowing more space on the fringes of the property for adequate soft landscaping.

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