Hotel proposed next to site of ecological importance in Dingli

The Planning Directorate is recommending approval to convert a farm house into a 12-bedroom guesthouse with ancillary facilities

ERA said the project will affect the site’s predominant natural character
ERA said the project will affect the site’s predominant natural character

The Planning Directorate is recommending the approval to change the use of the farm house presently used for aquaculture, into a 12-bedroom guesthouse with ancillary facilities, consisting of a restaurant at basement level beneath the main building, a food production area also at basement level below part of the existing field, and a spa, swimming pool, orchards and animal pens within the adjoining field. 

A final decision will be taken by the Environment Planning Commission chaired by Elisabeth Ellul, next Friday.

The application presented by Jean Paul Busuttil a director of Sansuna Estates Company Ltd foresees the redevelopment of the site located in Triq Misrah Suffara, Dingli, which lies outside the limits of development and forms part of a buffer zone to an Area of Ecological Importance.

Apart from the swimming pool and animal pens, the development will not involve an extension of the existing 600 square metre footprint which will involve additional development of 551 sq.m at basement level to accommodate the restaurant and kitchen.

The original permit for the extension of the farmhouse and its change of use in to a fish culturing unit was approved against the advise of the case officer in 2005.

An existing swimming pool, covering an area of 26 sq.m was approved by the previous permit. The swimming pool is to be converted into a spa. The new swimming will cover a footprint of 78 sq.m. In total, the deck area will have an area of 104 sq.m. 

The project also includes an agro-tourism component “by the introduction of fruit tree orchards and an animal husbandry area”.

Four large animal pens will be located in the middle of the field, each covering circa 65 sq.m. Each of the pens will include an animal enclosure, whilst three of the pens will include a milking area. Three animal pens having an area of 5 sq.m each will be located along the western wall, together with a quarantine pen. All these structures will be constructed in timber, reaching a height of 3m. 

The Malta Malta Resources Authority had objected to the animal pens, in view that the site is located in close proximity to Misrah Suffara Spring. 

The Environment and Resources Authority has objected to the development.

In a memo sent to the Planning Authority ERA expressed its doubts on the sustainability of the project warning that its approval will create “demands for additional piecemeal development once the use has become established and consolidated”.

ERA also expressed its concern about the  replacement of soft landscaped areas with formal landscaping, construction of new structures and pressures for parking provisions. 

“The proposed will result in the formalization of a rural area, thus affecting the site’s predominant natural character”. 

Despite objections by ERA and the Malta Resources Authority the case officer  still recommended approval of the application which is deemed to conform to the SPED policy “which promotes the rural area for agriculture and diversification in support of farming activity in addition to protection and management of the natural and cultural activities which give its distinctive qualities.”

The case officer also refers to Rural Policy and Design Guidance part 6.2C which regulates the change of use of existing buildings ODZ. This policy lists a number of acceptable land uses for such buildings. The proposed land use falls within section 5(d) of this policy –“ any other use that would result in a wider environmental benefit, provided that the site is already serviced by a road network that would adequately cater for the proposed new use”. 

The proposed use of the farmhouse as a guesthouse use is also considered to be an improvement on the existing fish culturing unit, “as it will sustain agricultural use by the creation of an orchard and the construction of an animal husbandry area, thus making use of the adjoining field for agricultural purposes.” 

The restaurant and spa are considered to be ancillary facilities which compliment the use of the guest house, and is aimed to ensure the economic viability of the project. 

Residents in the area have complained that the proposed animal rearing area will create a nuisance to neighbours because of odours, whilst the development will generate parking problems while the restaurant will generate noise and other inconveniences in the area.

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