Policy on old people's homes paves way for extra storeys on historical buildings

New policy approved by government foresees 2 extra storeys on protected historical buildings including those with a Grade 2 listing, a grading which normally forbids any development except minor alterations.

The policy would pave the way for the approval of a proposed extra storey on the scheduled Mtarfa Isolation Hospital which is a Grade 2 national monument.
The policy would pave the way for the approval of a proposed extra storey on the scheduled Mtarfa Isolation Hospital which is a Grade 2 national monument.

The government has approved a planning policy which allows 2 extra storeys on old people's homes located in Urban Conservation Areas as well as on scheduled buildings.  Only Grade 1 buildings are exempted but Grade 2 buildings which are normally protected from any development except minor alterations are not. Old people's homes located outside development zones  will not benefit from the new policy.

The policy is aimed to address "the overall lack of available bed-spaces".  In the case of scheduled buildings the policy " may only apply where such buildings are in a poor state of repair and where they cannot otherwise be easily converted into a retirement home". 

As regards extra storeys in Urban Conservation Areas , the increase of building heights in UCAs for use as a retirement home is now no longer seen as a  “concession” above the statutory height limitation, but has become an issue of "fitting (the new development) within the existing historic environment".

The floor space located above the statutory building height limitation can be utilised for the provision of both accommodation and ancillary facilities.

The allowable height of the retirement home building shall not exceed up to two additional floors over and above the height limitation permitted in the Local Plan provided that the resultant design is in keeping with the urban context and no blank walls are created.

The policy is justified by data showing that government forecasts an average additional 200 beds per year are needed up to 2025, in public retirement homes alone.

The policy will benefit the owners of the Isolation hospital in Mtarfa who intend to convert the scheduled building into an old people’s home and add an extra storey on it. Malta Healthcare Caterers, a subsidiary of the Seabank Group, was the recommended bidder for the isolation hospital after an expression of interest issued last year.   MEPA scheduled the isolation hospital in Mtarfa as a Grade 2 national monument on July 12, 2008. Normally only internal alterations can be made to grade 2 scheduled buildings.   Existing homes for the elderly, such as Villa Roseville – a grade 2 listed building hosting a home run by Nazzareno Vassallo’s Caremalta – may also be eligible to build two extra storeys if the new policy is approved.  .

The Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development already opens a loophole by foreseeing old people’s homes and other health facilities outside development zones, but “only if no feasible option exists within the development zone” but extra heights are not allowed on old people's homes in ODZ areas.  The PA has recently approved an ODZ old people's home proposed by GAP group in Naxxar.

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