Carmelite Order denies giving developer consent for car park in Balluta

The Carmelite Order has denied issuing its consent for the development a 115-space car park under its convent gardens in the Balluta neighbourhood

The Order has informed MaltaToday that when developer John Cilia had requested their consent for the car park development they informed him that “no consent could be given”
The Order has informed MaltaToday that when developer John Cilia had requested their consent for the car park development they informed him that “no consent could be given”

The Carmelite Order has denied issuing its consent for the development a 115-space car park under the gardens abutting the Carmelite convent in the busy Balluta neighbourhood of St Julian’s.

The application includes a standard ownership declaration in which the applicant has to confirm that although not the owner of the site, the actual owners are notified if the “intention to apply and the owner/s has/have granted consent to such a proposal”.

But the Order has informed MaltaToday that when developer John Cilia had requested their consent for the car park development they informed him that “no consent could be given” and that the PA’s rejection of an earlier application to develop retail and office development on the same site “had automatically cancelled any written agreement that may have existed between the parties.”

When Cilia proceeded to file a new application, the Carmelite fathers filed a judicial protest against both Cilia and the Planning Authority insisting that “no consent was given to the new application”. The Order also called upon both the PA and Cilia to refrain from any further consideration of the application.

“The Carmelite Order reserve all rights to claim for damages suffered in case the developer and the PA remain in default.”

The Carmelite fathers are insisting that they are doing “everything possible to stop the development.”

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 emphyteusis 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 filed a court injunction to stop the development. The new Carmelite Prior also objected to the development.

In March 2017 the Planning Authority turned down a controversial commercial development consisting of retail outlets 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.

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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