Planning Authority set to approve Smart City and Mistra projects with 1,100 apartments

In a busy day for the Planning Authority, the board is set to approve two residential projects at Smart City and Mistra but refuse an apartment block that will destroy a large protected garden in Għaxaq

The proposed Shoreline residential complex at Smart City visible at the far end, as seen from Xgħajra
The proposed Shoreline residential complex at Smart City visible at the far end, as seen from Xgħajra

The Shoreline development in Smart City and the renewal of a controversial permit for the Mistra project, are expected to get the green light later on today.

Both residential projects are on the agenda of a Planning Authority board meeting. Both projects entail the construction of more than 1,100 apartments.

The Planning Directorate is recommending the approval of these two projects but has called on the PA to refuse the development of 27 apartments on the grounds of a historical garden in Għaxaq.

Shoreline project

Constructed over 12 levels, the Shoreline project will include 41,000 sq.m. of residential floor space (400 apartments) and 28,000 sq.m. of commercial floor space.

The project was not envisioned in the original masterplan for Smart City approved in 2008. 

But Smart City Malta, the company once tasked to build an ‘internet city’ at Xgħajra, will transfer over 28,800 sq.m. of space for residential development to the new Shoreline project.

Smart City will also transfer another 6,700 sq.m. of retail development space from its project to the area now earmarked for the private Shoreline development.

Originally, development in the area earmarked for Shoreline was limited to 13,500 sq.m of residential development and 6,000 sq.m. of commercial space.

The land will be transferred from Plots 15 and 16, which were allocated the highest height in the Smart City masterplan.

The Shoreline project will have an adverse impact on coastal views from the Xgħajra promenade according to the EIA presented last year.

But the visual impact of the Shoreline development will be screened by development approved in 2009, which is still to be constructed.

The Mistra project was approved in 2013 but after no work started, developers are seeking to renew the permit
The Mistra project was approved in 2013 but after no work started, developers are seeking to renew the permit

Mistra project

The PA is also expected to approve the renewal of the controversial Mistra project which includes 744 apartments built over 12 storeys as approved in 2013.

The permit issued in 2013 was valid for five years. If the permit is not renewed it would lose any legal validity.

The development approved in 2013 represented a 20% reduction from the development approved in a preliminary outline permit issued in 2008.

Although the PA is obliged at law to renew any permit when such a request is made within five years, they still have to be assessed according to new policies, which came in place after the original permit.

Pertinent to this case is the Floor Area Ratio policy, approved in 2014, and which excludes high-rise development on ridges and which does not include Mistra in the list of localities where over 10-storey buildings are permitted.

However, in this case, the commitment to use the FAR policy for development of up to eight floors is enshrined in the local plan, which was approved in 2006 and has remained unchanged. The local plan foresees “slight departures” from the eight-storey limit if the “urban and architectural design is of the highest calibre”.

The large garden in Għaxaq is 250 years old and scheduled
The large garden in Għaxaq is 250 years old and scheduled

Għaxaq garden

The PA is also expected to refuse the proposed construction of 30 residential units in a historical garden in Għaxaq.

The Planning Directorate is calling on the board to refuse development on the grounds of a scheduled garden.

The case officer report warns that the proposed basement level entails excessive excavation and ground disturbance which would lead to further damage, during works, to the historical garden features such as the surrounding walls.

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