MEPA receives seven applications for hotel extensions

Seven hotels apply for extensions, more expected to follow suit in coming weeks following introduction of new height regulations  

Tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis (left), MEPA CEO Johann Buttigieg (centre) and parliamentary secretary Michael Falzon
Tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis (left), MEPA CEO Johann Buttigieg (centre) and parliamentary secretary Michael Falzon
MEPA CEO Johann Buttigieg on hotel extension applications • Video by Ray Attard

MEPA CEO Johann Buttigieg said that following the publication of the new height regulations for hotels, the authority approved seven applications for extensions with a number of other hotels expected to submit their applications, including total redevelopment.

The development is expected to create 450 new jobs and inject a €50 million in the sector. The approved applications include developments in Gzira, Marsalforn Gozo, the Intercontinental in St Julian's, three hotels owned by entrepreneur Hugo Chetcuti and a new development in Sliema.

Moreover, Buttigieg said that the authority is in talks over with Corinthia Group  over the redevelopment of two of its hotels.

MEPA has also received 13 applications for the development of boutique hotels in Valletta and the redevelopment of the former Jerma hotel in Marsascala.

The policy regulating building heights issued for public consultation in November was tweaked and silently approved by the government on 24 May – on the day Malta went to the polls to elect its MEPs – and before the approval of the new local plans which are expected to be approved by mid-2015. 

The new policy effectively reduces the minimum site area where high rise development can take place in all Maltese towns and villages from the proposed 5,000 square metres to 4,000 square metres.

Moreover no minimum site area is required for high rise development in Sliema, St Julian’s, Msida, Gzira, Pietà, St Paul’s Bay, Marsascala and Marsa, which could see buildings rising up to 10 storeys in these localities. 

The new policy allows the development of buildings that are over 11 storeys high only in the Tigne Peninsula, Qawra, Gzira, Marsa and Paceville.

The only limit on high rise development in areas officially designated for medium or tall or medium rise buildings is the requirement that such development has to be surrounded by four planned or existing streets. 

He said the authority was in the process if setting up a one stop shop where all licenses and permits can be applied for and processed. The authority has recently updated its IT infrastructure to the tune of a €400,000 investment.

Parliamentary secretary for planning Michael Falzon said the new policy underlined the tourism sector's "central role in the country's economy" and reiterated government's commitment to improve the tourist product in "holistic" manner.

He added that the new height regulations  should not be looked upon as "restrictive" but as an opportunity to improve the touristic product while protecting the Maltese identity.

Tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis said governments efforts were aimed at increasing the country's competitiveness adding that this wasn't possible without the investment of Maltese entrepreneurs.

Noting that tourism in October increased by 4% over the same month last year and the 2.5% increase in tourist expenditure, Zammit Lewis said "these statistics confirm the success of our policies."
Zammit Lewis applauded MEPA's swift processing of the applications which he said  were mainly looked at from a touristic perspective.
Pointing out that a Gozitan hotel was among the applicants, Zammit Lewis said government was confident the tourism sector in the island had potential to grow.