Hoteliers plan more development inside Balluta valley

Meridien hoteliers want to build inside agricultural area near valley

The orange part of the diagram is scheduled for development
The orange part of the diagram is scheduled for development

An area of the Balluta valley that was retained in development zones in the 2006 local plan, is now threatened by residential development right inside the agricultural land behind the Le Meridien car park.

A zoning application presented by the owners of the site is requesting that a new 10m-wide road links Sqaq Ciantar to Birkirkara hill, for a 17.5m-high residential development along the new road.

This part of Balluta valley was included in development zones in the Temporary Provision Scheme of 1998 but was zoned as a ‘public open space’.

Then in 2006, the North West Local Plan referred to the “ambiguity” and “uncertainty” created by this designation, and called on the Planning Authority to draft a development brief for the area to provide detailed guidance “on permissible land uses, density and layout of development, building heights, vehicular and pedestrian route layout, protection of areas of environmental value and open space provision.”

Although the area is already protected from development due to its ecological importance, the developers want to increase building heights in the zone proposed for residential development

But no such plan was presented in subsequent years and the landowners have now presented their own plans for the zoning of the area. A part of the site identified in the zoning application is scheduled as an Area of Ecological Importance. The plans envisage that this area should be “developed as a public open space.”

Curiously, although this area is already protected from development due to its ecological importance, the developers are using its dimensions to fulfill “floor area ratio” requirements in a bid to increase building heights in the zone proposed for residential development.

The FAR mechanism allows developers to increase building heights over and above applicable height limits, if they provide more open space.

The application has been presented by Benny Camilleri, a director of Bajja Developments Limited, which owns the Meridien hotel. The application lists construction magnate Charles Polidano ‘ic-Caqnu’, and Marsovin owner Anthony Cassar as the other applicants. The application also specifies that the site has other owners.

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