Marsascala council rejects proposal to turn Jerma Hotel site into open space

Marsascala mayor insists businesses need a hotel in the south of the island • Deputy mayor Desiree Attard supports PN councillor’s motion to return site of former Jerma Palace Hotel to the public

The ruins of the former Jerma Palace hotel
The ruins of the former Jerma Palace hotel

Marsascala’s local council has voted against a proposal to turn the former site of the Jerma Palace Hotel into an open space for the public to enjoy.

The motion was presented to the council by Nationalist councillor Charlot Cassar and was seconded by the Labour deputy mayor, Desiree Attard.

The motion was however defeated after four Labour councillors voted against and three PN councillors voted in favour. Attard was not present for the vote but declared her backing for the motion beforehand.

The council, the motion proposed, should formally ask the government to consider buying back the Jerma site.

“The public has been denied free access of the coast for several years,” Cassar’s motion read, adding that the hotel itself obscured Fort St Thomas.

Contacted by MaltaToday, Cassar expressed his surprise that the motion had been rejected. “This was a motion purely in the interest of public and the wellbeing of the residents… one would have expected the council to support it,” he said.

Marsascala mayor Mario Calleja is adamant that the salvation of local businesses depends on the development of a new hotel and increased commercial activity. “Shops and restaurants have been negatively affected ever since the Jerma hotel closed down … Marsascala has enough open spaces already and what we need are commercial opportunities,” the mayor said.

According to Calleja, the council had “no right” to tell the government what to do with the site, “especially now that the government supports and has been pushing public-private partnerships”.

Calleja said he could not understand “all the fuss” surrounding a proposed redevelopment of the site in the south of Malta. “Marsascala is supposedly a tourist village but we are not getting any tourists. Why are hotels good for the north part but not for the south? Businesses in the south need a hotel too.”

The mayor went on to add how the redevelopment of a hotel would lead to an embellishment of the promenade and a sandy beach.

The land on which the Jerma Palace Hotel was built originally belonged to the Franciscan Conventuals and Ivan Burridge, and was sold to San Tumas Holdings, which in turn sold it to the Libyan investment vehicle Lafico in 1976. Corinthia used to manage the hotel through a management agreement.

The hotel was never developed since closing down in the 2000s and then sold to JPM Brothers –owned by Peter and George Montebello - in 2007. The Montebellos planned to redevelop the site into a complex of residential units, a five-star hotel and a yacht marina.

The now empty shell will go under the hammer in October, after a court upheld a request by HSBC Bank Malta that it be sold to settle outstanding debts.

According to court documents, the derelict site measures almost 38,000 square metres, including undeveloped land and foreshore. The property is valued at €20,772,000.

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