FAA hits out at Planning Authority ‘inconsistencies’

Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar coordinator Astrid Vella calls Planning Authority's control over development as 'controlled anarchy'

Photomontage of what the proposed development in Sliema would look like
Photomontage of what the proposed development in Sliema would look like

Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar (FAA) has lambasted the Planning Authority in connection with an application for five apartments and a penthouse on an existing building in Sliema, which is due to be approved on Friday.

Criticising the Planning Authority for its “inconsistencies” and referring to its control over development, FAA coordinator Astrid Vella claimed that “we are sinking into controlled anarchy with a strong hand deciding who evades control and who has to submit to it.”

She lamented that the Sliema application refers to “an unstable house dating to the early 1800s along the Sliema Ferries seafront” which had supposedly been refused in 2011, including by the Planning Appeals Board and Sanitary Board in 2014.

“It violated the sanitary law which does not permit an eight-storey building in narrow St Vincent Street. And yet the developer applied for the same project again, hoping for a more sympathetic board,” Vella said.

The Planning Authority’s Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee had objected to the proposal due to the fact that it found the property to be too narrow to include terracing on St Vincent Street. It had also commented on the proposal’s aesthetic impact. “The panel considers that eight floors on St Vincent Street would have a negative impact on the streetscape and the characteristic buildings in the said street,” it said.

Vella claimed that, at the hearing, the chairperson for the Environment and Planning Commission was very receptive to the developers. “Immediately after the session, the Case Officer’s refusal was changed to recommended approval in spite of the fact that this project also violates the policy regarding ‘Frontage Widths along the Sliema and St Julian’s Waterfronts’,” Vella said, partially quoting section 17 of the North Harbours Local Plan, which reads that “to avoid pencil development along the Sliema and St Julian’s waterfronts, proposals for new high buildings having a façade width that is less than 25m will not be permitted…”

Vella noted that the façade for the proposed building has a width of 5.11m. However, the clause also points out that buildings with a smaller façade width are allowed “if the proposed façade will have a design that is identical to, and that is continuous with, that of its existing neighbouring building”.

“In spite of the Case Officer’s recommendation to refuse once again, the PA EPC is to approve this eyesore this coming Friday, 28 October, basing its decision on an invalid precedent and incorrect information supplied by the developers,” Vella said.

Vella called upon PA chairman Vincent Cassar, CEO Johann Buttigieg, parliamentary secretary Deborah Schembri and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to look into this case, asking them to “prevent yet another eyesore and planning scandal”.

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