17-storey hotel set to open floodgates for high rise up north

In what could be a precedent for more high rise development along the Qawra coastline, a 17-floor hotel is being proposed on the site of the former Sea View hotel which has already been demolished.

If approved the new hotel will set a precedent which could open the floodgates for high rise development in Qawra and Bugibba in the absence of a masterplan for the area which already suffers from the chaotic planning of the past decades.

Presently the highest building in the area is the San Antonio which is set on 10 floors. The former hotel on the same site was only three storeys high.

The new hotel will include two floors of hotel facilities and services and fifteen floors of bedrooms with 207 rooms with  a  pool and pool deck on roof.  A beach concession is also being proposed on the foreshore.

The Environment and Resources Authority is objecting to the beach concession and has noted that the proposed development might “ impose visual impact on long distant views and vistas due to its predominant height”.  The Design Advisory Committee which advises the Planning Authority on aesthetics  noted that “a “lighter option” would be “preferable  for a building of this height and scale”.

Developer Isaac Vella has presented two separate applications for the proposed 12-storey Sea View hotel: one to demolish the existing one and another to construct the hotel and beach lido. Usually both the demolition of a site and its replacement building are approved in a single application.

At the initial stages of processing of the application to demolish the existing hotel, the PA’s planning directorate raised concerns that this application is proposing excavation of a site without a proposed development as an after use of the site. “Whilst an application has been submitted to propose the demolition and construction of a new hotel on site, concerns were raised with respect to piecemeal processing of separate applications on site without a comprehensive phasing masterplan.”

Project architect and former Labour MP Charles Buhagiar replied that the project comprises two phases: the first being the demolition of the building and excavation below road level, and a second phase consisting of the construction of the new hotel. The planning directorate dropped its initial objection by noting that the application for demolishing the hotel was “submitted to commence the works on site in preparation of the eventual construction works”. The application to demolish the existing hotel was approved on 25 April.

Plans presented to the Planning Authority also envisage the laying of 50 sunbeds on the coastline.

Plans showing the proposed sun beds along the Qawra coast.

But the ERA has already expressed its concern on the matter.

“The laying of sunbeds on the beach would contribute to the further take up of the remaining coast for the further intensification of commercial activity in the area and would contribute to the further environmental degradation and formalisation of this coastal area”.

It described the laying of sunbeds on the coastal area as  unacceptable in principle from an environmental point of view.

Qawra is one of the 6 localities were high rise development can take place according to a policy approved in 2015. The other localities are Marsa, Mriehel, St. Julians, Tigne and Gzira. Moreover a policy regulating the height of hotels approved in 2014 “stand-alone hotels”located within the development zone  to seek permission for any number of additional storeys.  High rise hotels are not obliged to create public spaces around them as is the case with other high rise developments.

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