Back to square one on Santa Lucija’s ODZ elderly home

PA orders developers to find alternative site in urban zone, they get back re-proposing the same original ODZ site

The proponents of a home for the elderly outside Santa Lucija’s development zones have failed to find an alternative site for this development after being asked to conduct a site selection study by the Planning Authority.

In 2014, Healthmark Care Limited applied to develop a five-storey home for the elderly on ODZ land near the Santa Lucija secondary school. But a year later the PA asked the developers to consider other sites.

The site selection study was carried out following instructions by the Planning Authority in August 2015. 

This was supposedly done to ensure that the guidelines set in the Spatial Plan for the Environment and Development (SPED) are followed. 

This application is being seen as a major test case for the sequential approach found in the SPED, which firstly calls on developers to consider the re-use of existing developed land; secondly to re-develop of existing developed land and buildings; and finally, where no other feasible alternatives exist: the use of vacant land. 

A report which concluded that no alternative site was found in the urban area, was submitted to MEPA in October 2015. The report included a screening for sites based on environmental and planning considerations and a financial Cost Benefit Analysis undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers. 

In March 2016, the PA advised the applicant to pursue the search for a suitable building or site in the Rural Area (Outside Development Zones). A report, which concluded that Santa Lucija was still the best site, was presented in the same month.

The report shortlisted a total of six vacant ODZ sites. These included two sites in Luqa, two sites in Marsascala, one site in Fgura, and the original Santa Lucija site. 

A Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis of the shortlisted sites identified the Santa Lucija site as the “preferable location”. 

A Project Development statement submitted to the PA acknowledges the visual impact of the proposed development which will “be visible from various places since the Scheme Site is located at the highest point of the Santa Lucija area”. It is also likely to be visible in the long distance views from the south, where there is a drop in level to Wied Garnaw. The site is located just on the edge of the Santa Lucija Development Zone. 

According to the PDS “close proximity to the school allows the potential for intergenerational interaction, and possibly also for the sharing of facilities”. 

There are horse stables immediately adjoining the site (to the east). While this may have negative impacts like odours and noise; “there could also be positive, therapeutic impacts in relation to facilitating access to animals”. 

The development proposed consists of 301 beds over five floors. It also includes a chapel/cinema, administration rooms, a hall, the main kitchen and dining areas, a coffee/sweet shop, a hairdresser shop/beauty salon, a mortuary, a linen store, a cleaners room, a garbage room and a switch room

A Dementia Unit with treatment room, nursing station and specifically designed garden, will be set up in a separate unit from the rest of the residence. 


Agreement with head of school

It is envisaged that vehicular access to the Scheme will be from the ring road of St Thomas More College, Girls’ Secondary School last year. This arrangement has been agreed both by the Headmaster of the School and by Transport Malta. 

The Scheme will provide 94 car parking spaces (14 at ground floor and 80 at basement level). 

The newly set-up Environment and Resources Authority is objecting to a proposed four storey old people’s home in an ODZ area in the vicinity of the Santa Lucija state school. 

ERA informed Healthmark Care Services that it is objecting to the proposal “since it would result in urban sprawl and land take-up at the expense of undeveloped rural land”. 

The developers were also informed that if they intended to proceed with the project they would have to prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement. 

At a meeting organised by the Santa Lucija council in December, 2014 Robert Sarsero, the architect of the proposed old people’s home, revealed that 250 beds could be leased to the government while some 100 could be rented directly by the developer.   

Sarsero, who is also a member of MEPA’s Appeals Tribunal, referred to various precedents where permits for homes for the elderly and other developments were granted in ODZ, a case in point being the home for the elderly in Mellieha.