Qawra braces itself for five tower blocks

MEPA green-lights development of five blocks of five storeys each, set to replace a number of semi-detached villas on a site of 3,700 square metres along Qawra Road.

Qawra is set for more intensive residential development after the government and the Malta Environment and Planning Authority board approved a new zoning, permitting five blocks (of five storeys each) that are set to replace a number of semi-detached villas on a site of 3,700 square metres along Qawra Road.

The height limitation for the site has now been changed to five floors, plus an underlying semi-basement. A private, open space of not less than six metres has to be left between the proposed five building blocks.

On 7 February 2014, the Prime Minister gave his consent to a MEPA board decision taken back in October 2013 to approve a planning control application presented by Perry Vella and Alfred Falzon on behalf of the villa owners.

The application had been pending since 2009.

The application requested the change in zoning of the site from semi-detached villas with a maximum site coverage of 40% and a maximum of two floors, to a “tourism zone” – which increases sit coverage to 50% and a height limitation of five floors, including semi-basement and an overlying penthouse.

The changes were already foreseen in the North West Local Plan of 2006, through a site-specific policy which allocated this site for development as a “tourism zone” for five-storey development.

The policy required a “master plan” for the whole site, supported by the owners of 75% of the gross floor area of the site.

The policy had to guide any future development of the site, ensuring a balance between the demand to develop land more efficiently and intensively, along with the needs of the existing residents, and MEPA’s goals of “improving the public realm”.

Originally, the very first ‘Town Planning Scheme’ for Qawra laid out in 1963, had allocated the site for detached villas with a maximum building height of 27 feet and site coverage of 25%.

In 2001, the site was proposed for re-zoning by the public consultation draft of the North West Local Plan, to increase it to a maximum 40% site coverage, a building height of five floors and a minimum site area of 4,000 square meters.

Then in 2006, the re-zoning was allowed a 50% site coverage and maximum five floors’ height.

The master plan presented by the developers was amended twice, in an attempt to comply with the requirements of the local plan. In the process, the original demand for seven floors was reduced to five.

Now, the five building blocks comprehensively do not exceed the 50% site coverage and a three-metre front garden is indicated along the frontage facing the public road.

The application does not give the five-storey blocks an automatic right for a penthouse, and a condition has been included to ensure that there is no uncertainty regarding the interpretation of building heights for this site.

According to utility corporation Enemalta, a new substation may be required to meet the increased energy demand in the area. The St Paul’s Bay local council had no objection to the development.