Josie Muscat’s new ODZ hospital set for approval

A final decision on the ODZ development is expected on 15 January. A preliminary permit was issued in 2002.

Photomontage of the proposed hospital presented in 2013
Photomontage of the proposed hospital presented in 2013
Josie Muscat, a pioneer in private hospitals, plans to replace the St James Hospital in Zabbar, which has become too small to deal with the increase in healthcare demand
Josie Muscat, a pioneer in private hospitals, plans to replace the St James Hospital in Zabbar, which has become too small to deal with the increase in healthcare demand

The Malta Environment and Planning Authority’s Planning Directorate, which gives technical advice to the authority’s board, is recommending the approval of the relocation of the St James Hospital from Zabbar to a site which lies outside development zones in the Tal-Hotba area in Bulebel, Zejtun. 

A final decision on the project, originally controversial because of the discovery of Punic tombs in 2009 – an issue since resolved – is expected on 15 January. A preliminary permit was issued in 2002.

The site of the new ODZ hospital is located 120 metres south of the Bulebel industrial estate and is bordered to the west by a two-lane country road, which is accessed from Triq tal-Barrani and to the north by Triq Hal-Tarxien.

According to the Planning Directorate, the proposed development will contribute positively to the country’s healthcare requirements for the Maltese Islands. The report states that the proposal is sensitive to the rural characteristics of the area.

The site has already been committed for use as a hospital in an outline permit issued in 2002 following a site selection exercise carried out by the developers and MEPA. A permit to demolish an existing building was approved in 2008. But the project was delayed following the discovery of archeological remains, which included a large cluster of Punic tombs.

When the hospital was approved at outline stage in 2002 the plans consisted of a one-storey building. 

But following the relocation of the proposed hospital building to the lower part of the site, the building was changed to one consisting of two floors.

Three quarters of the site presently consists entirely of agricultural land. The rest of the site is presently occupied by a low-lying building formerly used as a milk factory and more recently as a sausage-making factory. The building, with an area of 640m², dates back to the 1940s and is in a derelict state. 

The proposed hospital has a floor space of 13,631m², accommodating 130 rooms and various support facilities. The new hospital will replace the St James Hospital in Zabbar, which according to the case officer report has become too small to deal with the increase in healthcare demand.

Following the surveys carried out on site, the applicant opted to re-locate the proposed development lower down the site in order to eliminate any impacts on the archaeological area. The new plans were subsequently approved by the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage.

The case officer report also referred to the fact that  there is no room for further expansion of the Zabbar hospital. 

It also refers to plans for the conversion of the present Zabbar hospital into a retirement home.

The new hospital will include a basement, a lower ground floor, a ground floor and two overlying floors. It will also cater for 140 car park spaces.

The case officer report includes interesting details on traffic plans for this part of Malta. 

Back in 2007 the Transport Authority called on MEPA to put the project on hold until a decision was taken on the proposed new road network to the Smart City Project. In 2013 Transport Malta informed the applicant of its plans for a junction between Tarxien Road and St Leonard Street.  

More in National