Stivala 11-storey hotel over Villa Bonici gardens set for approval

Tripartite agreement would include construction and maintenance of pedestrian staircase linking upper and lower Parisio Street, presently blocked by old vernacular building

Photomontage of the proposed hotel rising above Villa Bonici's garden
Photomontage of the proposed hotel rising above Villa Bonici's garden

A Planning Authroity case officer is recommending the approval of an 11-storey hotel by developer Michael Stivala in Gżira. 

The property would replace an old, derelict farmhouse standing between lower and upper Parisio street at the intersection with Triq Moroni. 

The hotel is being proposed in a part of Sliema zoned as a ‘residential area’ in the local plan, where hotels are not allowed. But the case officer invoked a policy on ‘consolidation and regeneration initiatives’ – considering similar committments just a short distance away on the Gżira seafront – that gives the PA flexibility in assessing tourism development if it is compatible with the surrounding neighbourhood. 

The generic policy only applies when the proposed building height does not exceed that found in the local plans. 

Although this part of Sliema limits heights to four storeys with a semi-basement, the proposed 24.2m height falls in line with the 2015 guidlines that translates 11 storeys into 22m heights. Then the local plan also contemplates an extra storey, over and above height limits for hotels in Sliema. 

So Stivala’s 11 storeys are achieved without even applying the ‘Height Limitation Adjustment Policy’ that gives hotels two extra storeys over and above the local plan. The development is also stepped down from Triq Moroni to Triq Parisio. 

The approval of the new hotel was facilitated by a change of heart on the part of the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage: back in September 2021, it had “grave concern” at the intensity of the hotel with its “very considerable heights and volumes, which will bear onto the scheduled gardens of Villa Bonici”. The inevitable demolition of the existing farmhouse would also “generally not be viewed favourably by the Superintendence”. Illegal works abutting Villa Bonici’s garden walls, which transformed a yard into a car park, had also “prejudiced the integrity of the garden wall” – but these were later sanctioned by the Planning Authority after Stivala presented plans to stabilise the rock section underlying the garden wall. 

But at seeing the photomontages of the proposed hotel, the Superintendence described the proposal “as acceptable in principle” since it incorporates suitable terracing away from the scheduled gardens. 

The SCH dropped its objection after acknowledging a zoning permit from 2017, that had approved the demolition of a building to make way for both a residential development and a pedestrian link between the upper and lower part of Parisio Street, with the hotel stepping up from seven to 11 storeys, the top four storeys being receded. 

One of the conditions proposed by the case officer is that of a tripartite agreement between the applicant, the local council, and the Planning Authority for the “implementation and maintenance of the pedestrian passageway and a storm-water culvert” linking upper and lower Parisio street.