St Julian’s valley ruins to get green light for guesthouse

Ruins of two houses Wied Ghomor valley houses approved for rebuilding as two villas before 2017 election, now on their way to become a fully-fledged guesthouse

The former ruins in the St Julian's valley of Wied Ghomor
The former ruins in the St Julian's valley of Wied Ghomor

The ruins of two houses in the Wied Ghomor valley approved for rebuilding as two villas right before the 2017 election, are now on their way to become a fully-fledged guesthouse.

The Planning Authority’s planning directorate is recommending the approval of the 12-bedroomed guesthouse, outside development zones on the valley side of Wied Ghomor, in St Julian’s.

In May 2017, the PA approved the demolition of two dilapidated dwellings and their replacement with two villas with swimming pool. A year later, the PA approved the construction of additional rooms at basement level.

The dwellings had been approved after sufficient proof of previous residence was presented in the form of electoral registers dated 1981, 1982 and 1985.

Bu the site is designated as a buffer zone for an Area of Ecological importance. The Environment and Resources Authority had objected to the application, noting that two previous applications to turn countryside ruins into two fully-fledged dwellings were “stepping stones leading to this proposal”.

The ERA also expressed concern that this amounted to “piecemeal development outside the development zone, including this proposal, having a cumulative effect on similar developments outside the development area.”

But the PA’s directorate said the proposal did not include any additional extensions to what was already approved on-site or additional land take-up.

Curiously, roads agency Infrastructure Malta also gave a helping hand to the applicant by resurfacing a rural lane, which leads to the site from the main road, under the pretext of “maintenance of the bridge”.

The PA’s Transport Planning Unit (TPU) had originally expressed concerns with the resurfacing of this rural lane.

Paradoxically, just two years after approving the conversion to dwellings, the case officer justified the new permit for the guesthouse by pointing out that “scattered dwellings can have a very damaging effect on the rural scene” and that planning policies give priority to conversions “that generate employment to uses that cannot be accommodated within the development zone”.

The report even claims “the redevelopment of a permitted building that was developed unsympathetically in the countryside may be considered as a gain if it is properly redeveloped”.