Nine storey Veċċja hotel application withdrawn after case officer says no

Case officer recommended refusal because area is zoned for residential development in the local plan

The site of proposed hotel in close vicinity to the protected cove
The site of proposed hotel in close vicinity to the protected cove

A controversial application for the construction of a 22-room hotel built over 9 floors at il-Veċċja in San Pawl il-Baħar was withdrawn by the applicant after case officer has recommended its refusal.

The hotel was proposed over an existing terrace at St Paul’s Bay that will inevitably command views of St Paul’s Islands in the vicinity of a sea cave known as l-Għar tal-Veċċja, a natural geomorphological feature which is protected as an Area of Ecological Importance and an Area of High Landscape Value.

But in a report issued two weeks ago the case officer concluded that the proposal was not acceptable because it is breach of the local plan in which the area is zoned for residential housing. The latter policy notes that “hostels and and extensions to existing operating hotels” are acceptable, but new hotels are no. Moreover the ‘Height Limitation Adjustment Policy For Hotels (2014)’ which permits hotels to add two extra floors over the height limitation in the local plans was deemed to be inapplicable as the site is adjacent to the Urban Conservation Area and would create a blank party wall.

The hotel was to be built over ten levels, including a basement and receded floor, instead of the terrace accessed from Triq Stella Maris. The Environment and Resources Authority had expressed concern on the proposed excavation works in close proximity of the coastal cliffs and cave.

A geotechnical report prepared by a consultant hired by the developer excluded negative impacts resulting from "limited excavation” but warned that the new building itself will create a load on the fractured rock mass which would require reinforced concrete piles.

The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage had expressed concern at the “excessively high development” being proposed, warning that it would result in an “unsightly blank party wall facing the urban conservation area”.

Noting the site’s unobstructed proximity to the sea, it warned that “such high and intensive development is bound to be visually conspicuous from the seaward side and command views of St. Paul’s Bay”.

Residents, which include owners of summer residences in the area, lamented losing rights of access to the “terrace” which they have enjoyed for last 40 years.

The development, proposed by Josef Muscat, foresees the construction of a 22-room, eight-storey 3-star hotel with an overlying receded floor and basement, with related amenities consisting of a restaurant, gym and rooftop swimming pool.

The development was favourably recommended by the Malta Tourism Authority, which considered the development as an upgrade in the tourism product. The MTA’s Special Projects Committee had also deemed the proposed hotel eligible for additional floors according to the Height Limitation Adjustment Policy for Hotels.