Corinthia redevelopment will require local plan change

The local plan regulating development in Paceville excludes any residential development on the area presently occupied by the Radisson, Corinthia San Gorg and Marina Hotels

An agreement between International Hotels Investments plc and the Maltese government, now pending approval by parliament, envisages 100,000sq.m of floor areas allocated for residential and commercial areas apart from a 6-star hotel and a 5-star hotel to be built instead of the three standing hotels.

But the PA has refused to confirm whether it intends to change the local plan. A revision of local plan policies can be made by the authority either upon request by government or through a planning control application presented by the developers.  The PA confirmed that so far it has not received any planning applications.

The North Harbour Local Plan, which is still in place, designates the area occupied by the three hotels as a resort zone where development is strictly limited to hotel use and ancillary facilities. Moreover, the change of use of existing hotels to other uses is not allowed.

The PA refused to answer questions on whether a new masterplan for Paceville will be approved at some future date, after a draft plan issued in 2016 was put on the backburner following objections by residents and businesses alike.

On the Corinthia site the masterplan had proposed a maximum height of 22 storeys. Building sites were to be designed to maximise views to the sea, stepping down towards St George’s Bay and the sea. Taller buildings were proposed to create a gateway landmark to the north of the site.

Labour’s 2017 electoral manifesto commits the government to conclude the Paceville masterplan. Despite this pledge, high-rise developments on the Mercury House and the former ITS sites in St Julian’s and St George’s Bay were approved in the absence of a masterplan.

De Redin Tower

One of the points raised in the parliamentary committee meeting by the Opposition was Nationalist MP Mario de Marco’s concern for the De Redin tower to be released from its current incorporation in the San Gorg hotel environs.

“Is there a reason why the San Gorg cannot be rebuilt, from a heritage point of view, to have the De Redin tower rendered more visible and landmarked… if one had to be critical of the planning made in the past, it is the fact that these historic towers were made to be visible from the coast, because the San Gorg was in fact built around it…” De Marco asked IHI chairman Alfred Pisani.

But Pisani replied that rebuilding the San Gorg anew would raise the expense planned for its redevelopment from €90 million to €130 million.

“It would affect the feasibility of the project. We’re treading on new territory here, in the sense that this Malta’s first experience in six-star luxury. If there is a priority to which we can adapt to without demolishing the hotel, I don’t see any reason to do that… we feel we have a project that is attractive and that even the way our architects will raise the two storeys and treat the façade, will be as spectacular as what we achieved in London.”

Pisani said that the Corinthia’s new rooms will be larger, raising the average rate from €160 to €450 a night for some 234 rooms in total. “It’s a big acquisition for the country in terms of revenue and standards. You can’t have standard with a 500-room hotel.”

IHI has told MaltaToday that it will give a luxury environment to the new Corinthia hotel, matching its brand’s standards worldwide. “Real estate development will be complementary and supportive of that main focus, including in the overall landscaped setting of the development.”

There will also be two luxury serviced residential blocks, the highest proposed to be 15 floors on land located between the current Corinthia and the Radisson Hotel. The Marina and Radisson hotels will remain in operation, until such time that more definitive plans are made in years ahead.