ERA objections ignored as Dingli guesthouse approved

A 12-room hotel and a restaurant have been approved in area of ecological importance

The proposed use of the farmhouse as a guesthouse use is also considered to be an improvement on the existing fish culturing unit
The proposed use of the farmhouse as a guesthouse use is also considered to be an improvement on the existing fish culturing unit

The Planning Authority has ignored the advise of the Environment and Resources Authority by approving the change of 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. 

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”. 

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 sq.m footprint 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 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 65m2. 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. 

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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