Scheduled Sacred Heart convent could curb nearby hotel development

Superintendence for Cultural Heritage in final stages of scheduling the Sacred Heart school and convent, granting them greater protection from adjacent property developments 

The Sacred Heart Convent in St Julian’s
The Sacred Heart Convent in St Julian’s

The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage is in the final stages of scheduling the Sacred Heart school and convent, granting them greater protection from adjacent property developments in an area now targeted by property and hotel developments.

The scheduling will still require the final stamp of approval of the Planning Authority following the recommendation of the SCH.

In this case the scheduling of the building was requested by the Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee, a body chaired by the Superintendent which scrutinizes planning applications.

The scheduling would not only conserve the school and convent complex, but also impact on any development proposed in its vicinity.

This is because any development proposed in the vicinity of the school will have to be assessed according to stricter criteria introduced last year by planning minister Aaron Farrugia, which require the presentation of photomontages to assess the visual impact on the neighbouring scheduled property.

A seven-storey hotel has been recently proposed 10 meters away from the school, just across the road from one of the school’s gates.

The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage has already expressed its concern that the height proposed for the hotel would set an “undesired precedent” for excessive height in this area and would negatively impact on the convent/school complex.

The Society of the Sacred Heart established itself in Malta in 1903 when its schools and convents were confiscated by the French government. The nuns first established themselves in Villa Portelli, at Sliema, where they also opened their first school before moving to a new school in St Julian’s four years later. In 1944 they started a training college for female teachers at St Julian’ s.

St Julian’s mayor Albert Buttigieg is objecting to a proposed 23-room ‘guesthouse’ over seven storeys, opposite one of the entrances of the Sacred Heart school.

Apart from warning that this would result in a “pencil development” and the creation of two massive blank party walls, the mayor warned against the commercialisation of the residential area, flagging a “policy loophole” which permits guesthouses in areas where hotels are not allowed.

“What is the difference between a guesthouse and a hotel?” the mayor asked, adding that “experience shows that there is none.”

He noted that the hotel will only have two parking spaces, warning this would exacerbate parking problems in the area in a road presently used by school vans and parents’ cars.

He said the new hotel would further result in the loss of the area’s identity and would jar with the architecture of the school itself.

As proposed, the development by Joseph Chetcuti, the development will include a reception and breakfast area at ground floor, 23 rooms on six overlying floors, one of which receded and a pool at roof level.  An indoor pool and gym will be located in an excavated basement.