New hotel proposed in Gozitan rural hamlet

Hotel and terraced house proposed on agricultural land presently occupied by an old farmhouse expected to have “minor impact” on landscape according to consultants

Photomontage of the proposed hotel from the front
Photomontage of the proposed hotel from the front

A new four-storey hotel building consisting of 62 rooms is being proposed on agricultural land in an ODZ rural hamlet midway between Xaghra and Marsalforn.

New development in rural hamlets is normally limited to two floors and is limited to residences and hostels.

The site presently consists of an abandoned agricultural farmhouse with a 220sq.m footprint, and adjoining agricultural fields.

The hotel and an adjacent three-storey terraced house will be built over a footprint of 1812sq.m of which 720sq.m will be built up. 917sq.m of land is earmarked as a pool area.

The development described as a “3-star agro-tourism boutique hotel” is being proposed by developer Alfred Refalo and will be managed by Frankie Spiteri who also manages the Quaint Hotel chain in Gozo.

A project development statement (PDS) was presented by Environmental Management Design Planning, a company owned by Planning Commission member Mariello Spiteri

The study authored by architect Stephan Vancell deems the visual impact of the new hotel as a minor one despite “noticeable changes to the view”.

The demolition of the old farmhouse and rubble walls is deemed to have a minor negative impact on the cultural heritage because of their dilapidated state and the fact that there are “better conserved examples.”

But excavation works “may possibly impinge on buried remains,” due to proximity to archaeologically sensitive areas.

The owner claims that he has reached agreements with adjacent landowners to use adjacent fields to offer guests an “authentic rural lifestyle while living and sleeping in modern accommodation facilities”.

There are also plans to have “a few animals like horses and goats” in these fields.

In its first report on the development the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage had described the area as “archaeologically sensitive owing to the discovery of rock-cut tombs” and argued that the existing farmhouse which is deemed to have “vernacular value” merits inclusion into the proposed development.

For the Superintendence “the building height will present a heavy mass of building that will negatively impinge on the existing streetscape, skyline and countryside”.

While reaffirming its objections to the project, the Environment and Resources Authority has exempted the project from an EIA noting that the “main environmental impacts of the development relate to urban sprawl” beyond the hamlet’s boundary.

Instead of further EIA studies ERA called for a down-scaling of the project to avoid any encroachment beyond the edge of the ridge onto the underlying rural land.