Guesthouse set for approval in St Julian’s valley

A final decision on this development is expected in two weeks’ time on 15 March, and follows last Thursday’s rejection of an old people’s home in another part of the same valley

The guesthouse is set for approval in St Julian's valley
The guesthouse is set for approval in St Julian's valley

A 23-room guesthouse built over five floors in St Julian’s Ghomor valley, is being recommended for approval by a Planning Authority case officer.

A final decision on this development is expected in two weeks’ time on 15 March, and follows last Thursday’s rejection of an old people’s home in another part of the same valley.

The site of the guesthouse – previously occupied by a 60 sq.m garage – is located outside building limits in St Julian’s on the valley side of Wied Ghomor between the Tigullio complex and the Mikiel Anton Vassalli bridge.

The site itself abuts a garage and an existing two-storey building, but its development is expected to visually dominate the valley according to the Environment and Resources Authority, which is objecting to the development.

A previous application for residential development on the same site but presented by a different owner had been refused in 2011. But  the policy goalposts changed after the approval of the new rural policy  guidelines in 2014.

In a classic case of piecemeal development in 2015, the Planning Authority granted a permit to demolish the garage on site, to build a 200 sq.m villa with pool and semi-basement garage. The development was never commenced.

Indeed, the PA’s planning
directorate (case officer) had opposed this application, as it would have resulted in a new ODZ (outside development zones) dwelling.

But after some changes to plans the PA’s planning commission approved the villa on the basis of the new rural policy approved in 2014, which favours the redevelopment of existing ODZ buildings.

Now, the latest application to change the villa into a hotel is being opposed by the Environment and Resources Authority.

While noting that the proposal would be sited adjacent to a two-storey building and opposite a row of apartment blocks, “the increased volume would be more visually dominant when viewed from the rear onto Wied Ghomor,” the ERA said.

It also warned that the development exceeds the scale and massing of the villa approved in 2015, and that it would create a precedent for similar development on existing vacant plots within this area.

But the case officer contends that the height of the guesthouse is the same as that for the approved villa, with the three storeys proposed above street level being of the same height of the approved two storeys.

Curiously, the case officer recommending the permit cites a precedent created by a similar development in Gozo’s Xlendi valley, which saw the change of use of a dwelling into a boutique hotel. The case officer points out that Xlendi valley has more scheduling than Wied Ghomor.

The case officer also said the guesthouse was in line with the rural policy which permits any change of use that “results in a wider environmental benefit.”

But the Swieqi council is objecting to the development because of its visual impact. “This will produce a block which would be totally alien in terms of bulk, form, textures and scale to the rural quality of the context. The grabbing of more protected ODZ land by developers should not be tolerated.”

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