Parliamentary resolution needed for Fortina development

The redeveloped Fortina will include the rebuilt hotel as well as 109 new apartments, but the Lands Authority’s CEO Carlo Mifsud that the original deed for the land on which the hotel was built has not been revised

Now you see it, now you don’t: the site of the old Fortina Hotel in Sliema
Now you see it, now you don’t: the site of the old Fortina Hotel in Sliema

The Lands Authority has confirmed that MPs will have to green-light changes to the original deed on which the new 15-storey Fortina Hotel in Sliema will be built.

The redeveloped Fortina will include the rebuilt hotel as well as 109 new apartments, but the Lands Authority’s CEO Carlo Mifsud that the original deed for the land on which the hotel was built has not been revised. “Any such revision, as in this case, would require a parliamentary resolution,” Mifsud said.

The Lands Authority had already issued its clearance to the planning application presented by the developers.

But Mifsud insisted that such a clearance “only implies that the applicant is being cleared to apply for a planning permit at his own risk and cost”.

In October, the Democratic Party had expressed concern that the inclusion of a residential complex within the new Fortina was a clear change of use from that stipulated in the original contract, and would “necessitate a rethink of the ground rent, which is an insignificant cost in light of the huge amount of money set to be made”.

The permit envisages the demolition of the existing four-star hotel and spa wing of the five-star resort, and the building of 109 apartments over 15 floors, as well as a ground-floor shopping mall and three levels of underground parking.

It will also add five extra floors to the existing hotel tower, and build a new 13-floor hotel block in place of the spa wing, with restaurants at the plaza level.

The Lands Authority did not accede to MaltaToday’s request for the amount of ground rent presently paid by the owners of the Fortina hotel and how the government intends to revise the deed to permit residential apartments.

Both the developers and the Planning Authority were cagey when Sliema councillor Paul Radmilli raised this issue
on Thursday.

Radmilli insisted that the deed should be published before a decision was taken. But the developer’s lawyer insisted that the land is “private” and the planning board had no jurisdiction on civil matters between the government and the developer.

Johann Buttigieg, CEO of the Planning Authority, said the Lands Authority “as owner of the land” gave its clearance for the application and that the PA had no remit on third party rights.

Unimpressed, Radmilli warned against a repetition of the Gaffarena scandal where administrative procedures were respected but the law was still breached.

Residents have also claimed that the deed limited development behind the spa area to four floors. This was confirmed by a case officer’s report for another development in 1998.

The original deed was signed in the 1960s at a time when public land was dished out to private developers in various parts of the island to prop up Malta’s tourism development. The same was done in the early 1990s with regard to the Corinthia and Radisson developments in St Julian’s, which are also now earmarked for a project which is set to include apartments.

The Hilton development approved in 1995 also required changes to the original deed dating back to the 1960s to permit apartments on public land.

But subsequently environment minister George Vella heeded the Ombudsman’s advice to introduce legal changes requiring parliamentary approval for changes to emphyteutical deeds.

The ombudsman had intervened to stop a hunger strike by activists protesting against how public land had been transferred to the Hilton developers.

MaltaToday’s questions to the Lands Authority

1) Under which conditions was the land granted to developers in the 1960s and have these conditions been revised? If so, when?

2) Is any ground rent being currently paid by the owners of the site and what is the amount of ground rent due to government from the Fortina site?

3) Did the original conditions regulating the deed allow the development of residential apartments on this land and if not, have the conditions been revised and how?

4) Has the Lands Authority revised ground rent payments or asked for a revision of any other payment to government in view of the residential development? If so what ground rent is now due to government?

More in National

Get access to the real stories first with the digital edition

Subscribe