Archbishop asks church commission to look into Augustinian’s St George’s bay deal

Archbishop Charles Scicluna has asked the Church’s Environment Commission to look into reports that the Augustinian Order has rented out land in Paceville for a 12-storey extension of the Bay Street complex

Archbishop Charles Scicluna
Archbishop Charles Scicluna

Archbishop Charles Scicluna has asked the Church’s Environment Commission to look into reports that the Augustinian Order has rented out land in Paceville for a 12-storey extension of the Bay Street complex.

The Archbishop’s decision was revealed by Arnold Cassola, former chairperson of Alternattiva, who on Facebook had protested about the move. 

Prof. Cassola said that the Curia’s spokesperson Kevin Papagiorcopulo had written to him saying that the Archbishop had asked the Church Environment Commission to look into the facts on the proposed development on land owned by the Augustinian Order.

Rendition of the 12-storey complex towering above the Augustinians' property
Rendition of the 12-storey complex towering above the Augustinians' property

“On its part, after due investigation, the Church Environment Commission will voice any concerns it may have in a clear, analytical and unequivocal manner, according to the principles it has always advocated, in the best interest of the common good,” Papagiorcopulo wrote.

MaltaToday reported on Sunday that one of last remaining stretches of land owned by the Order on St Augustine Street in St Julian’s had been negotiated for its release unto the owners of the Bay Street Complex.

The land, currently being used as a makeshift car park, is to make way for a 12-storey four-star accommodation building and office complex, that will be developed by Bay Street Holdings, whose owners include George Muscat of GAP Holdings, and Paul Camilleri.

The order’s provincial Leslie Gatt confirmed the financial arrangements.

“There is a rental contract on the land between the Augustinians and Bay Street Holdings Ltd, so no sale has taken place, neither any temporary or perpetual emphytheutical concession,” Fr Gatt told MaltaToday.

He did not reveal any details on the rental. “No transfer of land has taken place. The property will remain that of the Augustinians,” he said.

When asked whether the Order will be benefiting from the sale or otherwise of any of the units in the complex, Fr Gatt said there was no such financial arrangement.

The development will tower over the St George’s Road, and behind the monks’ convent and St Rita Chapel.

The site area is of some 2,260 square metres, and will include 246 underground parking spaces.

Objections have already flowed in, among them from Simon Decesare, a member of the Eden Leisure Group which owns a sizeable chunk of real estate on St George’s Road, among others the Intercontinental Hotel and Eden cinemas.

Decesare said the proposed development is located in a residential buffer zone that is above the maximum height allowed by current policies, which would limit heights to four storeys.

He said the development would create a large, exposed blank party wall on St Augustine Street. “It also obstructs the view of the existing monastery on the adjacent site along Sqaq Lourdes. The same large exposed party wall is directly in front of the existing hotel rooms forming part of the five-star InterContinental Hotel. This will have a large impact on our hotel.”

Decesare said current planning policies precluded blank walls. “The proposed development includes offices, entertainment areas and a large hotel complex. It will have a large impact on the area and will not serve as a buffer between the town and the entertainment centre of Paceville. On the contrary it is extending the hotel area and the entertainment area of Paceville adjacent to the residential area.”

Decesare insisted that the residential buffer zone should only have development with a minimal impact, especially in terms of noise and operating times.

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