88-apartment Portelli block set for approval in Balzan

Development proposed by a business partner of Gozitan developer Joseph Portelli will result in parking shortfall of 16 cars


A Planning Authority case officer is recommending the approval of an 88-unit complex, gym and 2,408sq.m of retail shops, proposed by Clifton Attard, a business partner of construction magnate Joseph Portelli.

The project will include nine shops at ground floor level, four floors of residences, and an overlying receded floor level. The final decision by the PA’s planning commission is scheduled for 20 May.

The only major condition imposed on the development is that the developers will still need “clearance” from the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage for the relocation of the niche of St Roque. The heritage watchdog had called for the project to be downscaled, while also objecting to the relocation of Balzan’s St Roque niche from its present location at the corner between Triq Wied il-Balzan and Triq il-Kbira, and to the inscription ‘Park Lane’ above it.

Moreover, the case officer report confirms that the project will not even cater for the demand of parking spaces, which it will create. The project will require 153 parking spaces, 16 more parking spaces more then the 137 provided. The PA’s parking calculation is based on a standard formula, which envisages one parking space for every apartment, one parking space for every 50sq.m of retail and one parking space for every 10sq.m of gym space.

But the case officer argues that no parking shortfall will be created because an office project approved in 2015 which was never actually built back already resulted in a shortfall of 38 cars.

Following the submission of the latest plans the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage had insisted that the terracing of the development so close to the Urban Conservation Area remained inadequate.

The SCH kept insisting that the considerable massing being proposed should be mitigated through a design that is “more sensitive to the context in particular through the breaking up of the facades through vertical interventions to create a rhythm evoking more traditional facades.”

The case officer replied saying that the proposed development is compatible with its context and the surrounding areas as it introduces “traditional features such as balconies” which have been “integrated in a contemporary design”. Moreover, while the SCH considered setbacks on the second and third level as “minimal”, the case officer argued that the proposed street elevation and the setback floors would ensure that there is no negative impact on the traditional urban skyline of the existing streetscape.

Aesthetic considerations apart, the major objection by residents is that the project constitutes an overdevelopment in this quaint neighbourhood.

The Balzan local council warned that the project will intensify development in Balzan, a locality which suffers from major traffic congestion and a lack of adequate parking spaces for the residents of Balzan, let alone those making use of retail outlets proposed in this proposal.

It also called for mitigation measures for flood relief problems already present in the area, which it expects to increase significantly upon completion of the proposed development. “The proposed development is going to change the character of the locality of Balzan, thus creating a bad neighbourhood,” the council said.

In a separate application, which still has to be approved, the same developers have applied to develop a corner townhouse previously owned by former minister John Dalli. According to the submitted plans the development will include three new floors on the existing villa to accommodate three shops at ground floor level and 11 more apartments. The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage has already expressed concern about “this intense development”, noting that it does not provide for an adequate transition to the Urban Conservation Area.