Westin car park now rezoned into Paceville entertainment hub

Site opposite Paceville’s protected townhouse originally designated for apartments has now been rezoned as an entertainment hub

The Planning Authority has approved  an application by the Westin Dragonara hotel to change zoning rules in Paceville, and extend the ‘entertainment priority area’ to its parking area behind the 18th-century boundary wall on Triq id-Dragonara facing the coastline.

According to the case officer who recommended approval, this rezoning is necessary “to achieve a high-quality scheme in architectural and urban design terms”.

A substantial part of the 8,800sq.m site had been zoned for a four-storey residential development in the 2006 local plan. Subsequently in 2021, the PA re-zoned the Westin’s parking area for mixed-use development: 33% for offices, 55% for a hotel, and 10% for residential use, and just 2% for food and beverage establishments

But now the PA has re-designated the area allocated for office, residential and hotel development into an “entertainment priority area” – that is, extending Paceville’s entertainment hub to the residential area along part of Triq Dragonara, Triq il-Wilga and Triq il-Knisja.

A number of protected townhouses are located immediately opposite the proposed development while a number of residential blocks are located opposite the historical gate.

Such a designation would permit a wider range of allowable uses: dwellings, restaurants, bars, hostels, retail, supermarkets, dance halls, clubs and amusement arcades.

According to the case officer the rezoning conforms to the designation of Paceville as whole as a Business Hub in the Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development (SPED).

Moreover the introduction of new commercial activities in the car park site is justified because the site “is physically separated by roads from the residential zones located to the south and west of the existing car park.

Residents in the area had objected to the previous application allowing mixed use development and had insisted that any development in the car park site should not rise above the level of historical wall built by the Knights of St John under Grandmaster Pinto, enclosing the car park.

Previous applications were also resisted by residents who feared the encroachment of commercial activities on their door steps.

But no objections have been presented to the latest application except by Din l-Art Ħelwa which complained on the “insufficient information” provided in the application.

Neither does the rezoning exercise make any mention of what kind of project is being planned in the area in the future.

An application for a 10-storey development was presented by the Westin Hotel in 2018 before the zoning applications were approved and is still at the preliminary screening stage.

The site presently used as a car park was previously occupied by old and protected stables which stood lower than the historical wall, which were illegally demolished in the early 1990s.