Sliema council and residents oppose 16-storey hotel on narrow alleyway

Residents express anguish at having endured constant building works for the past decade warning that the proposed project would further deteriorate air quality and access to sunlight

The proposed 16-storey hotel would comprise 178 rooms on the corner site of Bisazza Street and the Markiz Zimmermann Barbaro Street, inside a narrow alleyway
The proposed 16-storey hotel would comprise 178 rooms on the corner site of Bisazza Street and the Markiz Zimmermann Barbaro Street, inside a narrow alleyway

The Sliema local council has formally objected to a proposed 16-storey hotel in the heart of Sliema noting that the proposed building will have a negative impact on the urban skyline and streetscape.

171 residents signed a petition against the development, adding to separate objections by residents of neighbouring residential blocks.

The 16-storey hotel proposed by Dale Spiteri would comprise 178 rooms on the corner site of Bisazza Street and the Markiz Zimmermann Barbaro Street, inside a narrow alleyway.

One part of the development will consist of self-catering units while another one will include traditional guest rooms. The project involves the demolition of a row of old traditional dwellings fronting Zimmermann Barbaro Street, described as “dilapidated”, but which include a townhouse with a traditional balcony which is over 100 years old. The project will also gobble up an adjacent 375sq.m undeveloped green area behind the existing buildings, which forms part of a more extensive garden.

Moreover, according to the council, the proposal is in breach of health and sanitary regulations which stipulate that the height of a façade should not exceed three times the width of the street in streets which are less than 15 meters wide.

Environmental NGO Din l-Art Helwa has described the proposed hotel as “completely overbearing”, impinging upon both the visual and social amenity of the existing context and “representing the total degradation and ruin of our urban landscapes”.

The NGO pointed out that the policy which allows hotels to build extra floors over and above what is allowed in the local plan cannot be applied in this case as it would result in the creation of blank party walls which are “certainly not an example of a ‘high quality product’.

The policy itself states that development allowed under this policy should result in a “high quality product” which respects the urban context and that any approved development should not create  blank party walls.

A number of residents from Tigne’ Street have also presented an objection to the Planning Authority which they also forwarded to Prime Minister Robert Abela and to the ministers responsible for health, transport and the environment.

The residents have warned that the project would be blocking sunlight for all neighbouring buildings and would result in the deterioration of their quality of life.

The residents lamented that they “have had to endure constant building works for the past decade” and “have seen their quality of life deteriorate with each project in the area”.

“We have a right to clean air free from construction dust contaminants and to sunlight.”

The project will also “take up a significant portion of the last remaining large wild garden” which is watered by a natural underground spring providing “much needed oxygen to the Tigne’ area.”

Residents have also expressed concern on the traffic impact of the proposed development as it does not cater for on-site parking, warning that it would only exacerbate the parking and traffic problem already present in Sliema.

“Given its location on Bisazza Street, which is pedestrianised for most hours of the day and very narrow access from Triq Markiz Zimmermann Barbaro, the proposal fails to address the issue of transport to cater for the number of hotel deliveries required and how occupants will be transferred to and from the hotel, ” another resident pointed out.

Residents have also taken issue with the way the developers are tying to get the hotel approved according to a policy approved in 2014 which allows hotels two extra floors over the height limitation imposed by local plans which already foresaw an extra floor for hotels in Sliema.

Less than a fifth of the site, fronting Triq Bisazza, is designated for eight floors (35.5 meters), while the remainder of the site, which fronts Triq Markiż Zimmermann Barbaro is designated for 5 floors and a semi- basement (25 meters). In this case the developers are seeking to add 10 meters (the equivalent of three floors) to the maximum height limitation in the area.  As proposed, the hotel would reach a height of 46 meters.

The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage has also objected to the demolition of the row of townhouses which are set to be replaced by the new hotel and has called for the incorporation of the facades in a “more appropriate” development.

The Environment and Resources Authority is currently assessing whether the project requires an Environmental Impact Assessment.