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Eight planning decisions to watch out for in 2018

Apart from scores of small permits which are changing our streetscapes and countryside views on a daily basis, a number of major planning decisions are expected in 2018.

Photomontage of Project as viewed from Saint George's beach

DB’s City Centre project

The PA will be considering a project consisting of a 37-storey residential tower, a 17-storey luxury hotel, a casino and a shopping mall on the site of an educational institute that has to be moved to accommodate this project.  The development will include the dismemberment and reconstruction of the  protected St George’s barracks. The ITS land was awarded to the DB Group by the government following an expression of interest for which only the group applied. The planning process for this particular project has commenced before the approval of the controversial Paceville Masterplan. The Auditor General is investigating the transfer of land to DB San Gorg Property.  The Planning Authority is also expected to approve the proposed ITS campus which includes a 12-storey hotel at Smart City in Kalkara. The relocation will cost €75 million, much more than the €15 million premium to be paid by DB Group for the land in Pembroke.

More high rise in Gzira

Gzira may end 2018 with three new towers, an 18-storey structure on the site of the Wembley ice cream factory,  a 14-storey tower on the site of the Paul & Rocco petrol station and a 29-storey tower on the site of the Golden Harvest factor. These will complement the already approved, but yet to be constructed 33-storey Metropolis and the 21-storey tower on the United Garage site which is under construction. Plans for the ‘Wembley’ tower in Rue D’Argens are vaguely reminiscent of the 102-storey high Empire State Building of New York, and incorporate the façade of Wembley’s ice cream factory. The facade will be reconstructed identical to the existing one, and shifted in the centre of the plot after being carefully “dismounted” and the stones “numbered, re-erected” and replaced as necessary.

Townsquare appeal

The PA’s review tribunal is expected to issue its verdict on an appeal presented by the Environment and Resources Authority, the Sliema local council and environmental NGOs against the approval of the Townsquare 38 storey high-rise. The project includes 159 residential units, more than 4,500 square metres of offices, some 8,000 square metres of commercial space and around 750 parking spaces as well as the restoration of Villa Drago.

The project was approved by the Planning Authority in August 2016 by a single vote, during a hearing which environmental regulator Victor Axiaq missed, citing health reasons. Developers had announced their intention to start excavation works two weeks ago, prompting criticism that they were pre-empting an appeals process that has yet to be concluded by the PA.

Dingli hotel development

An application foresees the demolition of the existing licensed explosives factory in Dingli and its re-development into a resort and spa. The development would involve the excavation of the site for accommodation of facilities.The Pulvich Explosives Industries Ltd is no longer in use, and the present building includes 36 stores – each the size of a large garage.The application was presented by La Toc Hotels Limited, a company formed in 2014 and owned by Dirk Hili, Bianca Anastasi and Veli Holdings. La Toc hotel has recently opened the La Folceneria hotel in Valletta. The Dingli local council is objecting to the development.

Chiswick school in Pembroke

The proposed private school development has irked residents in Pembroke who are demanding that the open area, bordering on the town’s garigue but still included in the development zones, be left free of any building. In August Environment Minister José Herrera turned up at a protest organised by residents who oppose the development, stating his Ministry supported the residents and was against the siting of the school in Pembroke. But the Lands Authority had previously issued its consent for the development of the new Chiswick House School in the open field owned by the State in Pembroke.

Changes to Smart City masterplan

Changes proposed to the Smart City masterplan foresee a dramatic increase of 185,864 square metres in the developable floor space of the whole project, over and above what was originally approved in 2008. While the area for ICT and media offices – the original aim of the project – will increase by over 46,000 square metres, or 29% over what was allowed in 2008, the area for commercial and residential development will together now increase by 139,624 square metres. The residential component itself will increase by a staggering 111,000 square metres, 177% over and above what was allowed in 2008.

Zonqor point in Marsaskala

Plans submitted by the American University of Malta at Zonqor Point include eight  ODZ dormitory blocks that will rise from four to nine levels.  But judging by the poor intake of students in the past year, it is unlikely that the project will be brought to the PA’s consideration in 2018.  But the low intake of students is also likely to increase pressure on the government to convince developers to relinquish their plans for Zonqor. The PN has now presented a motion seeking to reverse the transfer of ODZ land in Zonqor to Sadeen group.

New roads in Attard and Mellieha

One of the pine trees earmarked to be “transplanted” by Transport Malta.

A new bypass stretching over 1.3 kilometres is set to link the lower part of Mdina Road, close to the Mrieħel Bypass exit, to the entrance of the Attard industrial zone opposite Wied Inċita nursery. According to Alternattiva Demokratika the new road will take up a large amount of irrigated agricultural land.  A road widening project in Mellieha could also result in the destruction of a number of old Aleppo pine trees.

 

Two new floors proposed on protected Paceville townhouse

A good move by the PN on Zonqor