Wied Għomor guesthouse to be refused because of ‘illegal use’

Two successive permits issued in 2017 and 2018 had allowed a dilapidated structure to converted into residential villas in what was described as a steppingstone for their conversion into guesthouses 

The villas have been advertised on Booking.com since May this year
The villas have been advertised on Booking.com since May this year

The Planning Commission chaired by Elizabeth Ellul has indicated that it will be refusing a permit to convert an existing dwelling in Wied Għomor into a guesthouse, despite a recommendation by the case officer its approval.

The application was refused because of the “illegal use” of two dwellings approved by the Planning Authority back in 2017.

Despite the house having a permit to be used as a dwelling, it was already being advertised on the accommodation booking platform Booking.com.

The listing on the website described the property as one “providing accommodation with free WiFi, air conditioning and access to a garden with an outdoor swimming pool”.

The listing contains photos of hotel amenities, including an indoor pool and an extensive outside deck area.

According to the website, the guesthouse has been welcoming guests since 20 May 2019.

The application to convert two newly-built villas off Triq Mikiel Ang Borg, close to Spinola Bay, had been recommended for approval by the Planning Directorate.

But at a hearing today, the Planning Commission concluded that the application should be rejected based on its illegal use.

The board also cited the Planning Authority’s rural policy, which allows a change of use of ODZ buildings only if the replacement “would result in a wider environmental benefit” and if the site is already serviced by an adequate road network.

The case was deferred to next Wednesday for a formal decision. Two successive permits issued in 2017 and 2018 had enabled the transformation of a dilapidated structure into two residential villas and swimming pools.

Subsequently the owners presented a new application to change the use of the buildings to a 12-room guesthouse.

The Environment and Resources Authority (ERA), which objected to the application, said it appeared that the previous applications were merely “steppingstones leading to this proposal”.

The St Julian’s and Swieqi local councils and eNGOs Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Din l-Art Ħelwa and Nature Trust, all objected to the development.

However, the PA case officer called for its approval as it did not include any extensions or additional land take-up.

Guesthouse conversions are normally more favourably considered than residential under planning policy.

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