Demolish Festaval hotel and restore area, Mellieha says

Mellieħa council insists that since site was designated as an Area for Ecological Importance, the PA has no choice but to order the demolition of the hotel and restore the area to natural state

The Mellieħa council is objecting to an application presented by the Mizzi Estate to reconstruct the Festaval Hotel in an ecologically sensitive site between the Red Tower and the boathouse village, and is calling for the reinstatement of the area back to its natural state.

The objection was filed by Green Party Carmel Cacopardo in his capacity as the council’s architect, on behalf of mayor Dario Vella.

Cacopardo points out that the area where the dilapidated hotel is located was granted protection as an Area of Ecological Importance in 2006. “In view of this designation the only consideration the Planning Authority can make in this case is to approve the demolition of the dangerous structure and to order the restoration of the site in question.”

The council also protested at the omission from the application of any reference to an enforcement order issued by the Authority in 2018 which reprimanded the owners for leaving the site in a derelict state and “causing injury to amenity”, who were asked to present a method statement to address this issue.

An appeal by the company against the 2018 planning enforcement is still pending. Minutes of tribunal sittings refer to ongoing discussions between the government and the developer to resolve the issue.

In the last sitting in June a lawyer representing the site’s owners informed the Tribunal of his client’s intention to present a new application for the site. The hearing was adjourned to 6 October.

The site owners, Mizzi Estates Limited, a company owned by the Mizzi Organisation and whose directors include Maurice Mizzi, Veronica Mizzi and Christopher Mizzi, have presented an application foreseeing the demolition of the old structure and its replacement with a new hotel built over five terraced floor levels above the ground floor.

The building will consist of a reception area, hotel rooms, pool, restaurants, back of house, parking spaces and other ancillary facilities.

The original aparthotel located in the Sdieri area, between the Red Tower and the boathouses in Mellieħa consisted of 31 self-catering apartments designed by architect Richard England.

It was designed in a way that the roof of each apartment served as the terrace of the overlying one to minimise the visual impact. But the hillside started giving way before construction was even completed and the hotel never received guests.

The original hotel was constructed in the 1980s before the designation of the area as a buffer zone for an Area of Ecological Importance and before the planting of indigenous trees for the Foresta 2000 project.

In 2017, the company presented new plans in relation to an application presented back in 1994.

The plans foresaw a 1,600sq.m spa and hydrotherapy centre, 12 apartments with pools, a physical rehabilitation centre, bar and restaurant, and conference room.

Subsequently, new plans submitted a month before the PA enforcement was issued, proposed a masterplan for the construction of 23 villas.

But these plans have now been withdrawn and the application is limited to rebuilding the hotel.

The North West Local Plan which regulates development in the area states that the redevelopment of existing tourist accommodation facilities in rural areas, will only be considered in very exceptional cases where the new proposal is for a hotel which has very high design quality and considerably improves the rural or coastal landscape.

But “even in such rare cases, the increase in the number of beds or the intensification of the existing uses will not normally be favourably considered”.