Carmelite convent garden earmarked for 115-space parking project

A request has been made to green-light an underground car park with 115 spaces under the gardens abutting the Carmelite convent in the busy Balluta neighbourhood of St Julian’s

The developer cited the consent of the site’s owners in his application
The developer cited the consent of the site’s owners in his application

Developer John Cilia is requesting the green light for an underground car park with 115 spaces under the gardens abutting the Carmelite convent in the busy Balluta neighbourhood of St Julian’s.

In March 2017 the Planning Authority had already turned down a controversial commercial development consisting of retail outlets at ground floor and office development on a proposed first floor. It also foresaw an underground carpark with 84-car park spaces on the same site.

An appeal on this refusal was rejected last December. One of the major reasons for refusal was that commercial development was being proposed in an area zoned as a residential one and adjacent to the urban conservation area.

As proposed, the new application will solely consist of parking facilities. The existing boundary wall will be retained and no development will not rise above it. Plans presented with the application refer to the “relocation” of the existing statue of the Virgin Mary and 11 olive trees and two palm trees.  

The parking will consist of three underground levels and a ground floor level.

When the first application was presented the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage had objected to the extent of rock cutting in the immediate vicinity of the convent, warning that this posed “unacceptable threat to the structural integrity” of the building. But these objections were later dropped following the presentation of a works method statement.

The developer is citing local plan policies which call for the introduction of car parks, pedestrianisation schemes and other improvements relating to public transport in parallel to Resident Parking Zones.

In the application the owner acknowledged not being the owner of the entire site but cites the consent of the owners. The Carmelite Order entered into a 50-year lease agreement with developer John Cilia in 2011 for the development of the gardens into a supermarket. Back then, the Order’s prior was Fr Anthony Cilia, the developer’s brother.

The land was originally granted on emphytheusis to the Curia in 1890, on condition that it is not transferred or used for other purposes.

When the Archbishop came to know of this contract, he immediately applied for a court injunction.  

The site abuts the buildings of the Carmelite Convent that is scheduled at Grade 2 and is in the immediate vicinity of the Carmelite Parish Church, scheduled as Grade 1. The proposed development will abut the scheduled property at the rear of the development site and along its western side.

The PA recently approved an application by the Sliema local council for the development of a new multi-storey parking lot, which can take up to nearly 200 cars, on the site of a playing field adjacent to the 17th century De Redin coastal tower. The project will include a playing field above the car park.

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