Piecemeal strategy could turn Lija home into seven-storey building

In yet another case study on how developers are using piecemeal applications to make incursions in urban conservation areas, a seven-storey home for the elderly could end up being developed instead of a former Moulin d’Or wedding hall in Lija-Balzan

Four-storey home for the elderly. But the former wedding hall could now climb to seven storeys right in the heart of Lija
Four-storey home for the elderly. But the former wedding hall could now climb to seven storeys right in the heart of Lija

A seven-storey home for the elderly could end up being developed instead of a former Moulin d’Or wedding hall in Lija-Balzan, in yet another case study on how developers are using piecemeal applications to make incursions in urban conservation areas.

The hall is situated between Triq Robert Mifsud Bonnici and Triq il-Barrieri, in an area characterised by low rise dwellings.

Joe Xuereb Investments Ltd was originally granted a permit in 2014 for a four-storey home for the elderly, one of which receded, in a designed that blended well with the surrounding area.

The case officer report recommended approval because developers had “downscaled” their proposal to reduce impact on the residential amenity of the area.

The development approved in 2014 consisted of 51 rooms catering for 98 residents.

But in 2016, a new intermediate floor with an additional seven rooms was approved, increasing the number of potential residents to 113. And in May 2019 the PA greenlit another 34 through an extension of the approved floors, and the ‘sanctioning’ of illegal excavation which had increased the site area by 481sq.m.

Each application to increase the size of the home was presented within months of the approval of the previous one. Moreover, each piecemeal change had the blessing of the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage, which simply noted that the proposed massing “should not negatively impact on the context of the Urban Conservation Area” and blank walls overlooking the Urban Conservation Area should not be permitted.

As proposed in the latest application, the old people’s home will include a ground floor, the intermediate floor approved in 2016, four full floors and a new receded floor. A policy approved in 2017 permits an additional two floors for old people’s homes over and above height limitations in urban conservation areas.

TIMELINE

  • December 2014 – PA approves old people’s home over four levels instead of wedding hall
  • December 2014 – Developers apply to construct new ‘intermediate floor’
  • April 2016 – PA approves new intermediate floor
  • May 2016 – Developers apply to increase footprint, sanction illegal excavations and add 34 rooms
  • May 2019 – PA approves extension of site and 34 new rooms
  • June 2019 – Applicants submit application for two new floors

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