Smart City and Xghajra council object to 14-storey high-rise

Both the Xghajra local council and Smart City Limited, the developers of the Smart City residential and office development, are firmly objecting to a 14-storey high-rise

Both the Xghajra local council and Smart City Limited, the developers of the Smart City residential and office development, are firmly objecting to a 14-storey high-rise in the locality set to include 161 apartments on fields adjacent to Smart City.

A deceptive zoning application approved by the PA in August 2018 earmarked the site for the application of the Floor Area Ratio mechanism, which allows the 17.5-metre height limitation to be spread over additional floors in return for the allocation of open piazzas.

In separate representations, both the council and Smart City insisted that no such development can be permitted because Xghajra was not identified as a potential site for tall buildings over 10 floors in the Floor Area Ration policy.

Neither was Xghajra included in the list of localities identified for medium high-rises under 10 floors.

The council argued that the site cannot be identified for high-rise because streets on four sides do not surround it as required by policy.

Moreover, it pointed out that according to the policy tall buildings should be located “away from priority residential areas” as these are deemed to be alien to “low-rise compact locations.”

According to the council the development will create more infrastructural pressures on the locality and will have a negative impact on residents’ quality of life.

Smart City Limited recognised that the policy regulating tall buildings allows the application of the floor area ratio on 4,000sq.m sites in localities not identified for high-rise or medium-rise development. But they pointed out that this comes with conditions which are not being met in the present application.  

Over the past days the PA has received objections from around 100 residents, many of whom insisting that the development would ruin the character of Xghajra which is described as “a traditional residential location”.

Residents were unaware that the zoning application approved in 2018 had anything to do with high-rise developments, as it simply referred to the removal of a schemed 3m front garden and changes to the road and building alignment.

In fact, the application did not even solicit any objections from residents and any response by the local council.

But the aim of the application, as explained in the case officer’s report, was to remove the front garden so that this area could also be included in the calculation of the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) for the site.

The FAR is based on the ratio of a building’s total floor area (gross floor area) to the size of the piece of land upon which it is built.

“The main issue in this application is to qualify for the Floor Area Ration development by including the area of the current front garden and the schemed piazza within the floor space”, of the proposed development, the case officer said in the 2018 application.

In their representation against the 14-storey development, Smart City Limited refer to the “bizarre” way the case officer linked the zoning application to the use of the Floor Area Ratio when determining an application first submitted in 2006. But Smart City argues that since this application has been withdrawn, the zoning application is “null and void”.

In fact, following the approval of the zoning application, developers tried to include the high-rise plans in an old application for six-storey development presented way back in 2008. But the application was later withdrawn and presented again in its current form.

According to plans, the site has an area of 4,725sq.m of which 1,420sq.m consist of proposed streets. According to policy, only sites over 4,000sq.m are eligible for the FAR policy. Therefore, the building and road alignment approved in the zoning application was vital to ensure the eligibility of the site for higher development than foreseen in local plans.

Xghajra was not among the sites where tall buildings over 10-storey development can be allowed, but the FAR policy can be applied on all sites, which are over 4,000sq.m in Malta, subject to a number of conditions – including being surrounded by roads on all sides.

The policy also states that high-rise developments defined as developments higher than 10-storey developments can only be considered in Tigné, Marsa, Paceville, Qawra, Mriehel and Gzira. However, medium-rise development of up to 10 floors can be considered in other localities. But this particular application is proposing 14 storeys, which would effectively result in a high-rise development.

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