As predicted, the Planning Authority gave the green light for a number of old buildings on Rabat’s Saqqajja Hill, including the former Tattingers disco, to be demolished and rebuilt into a hotel.
Following a long discussion in which various objections were heard, particularly on the dangers that excavation in the area might pose to the foundations of the Mdina bastions, most board members still approved the permit.
They agreed to some minor tweaks, including the need for more studies to be made on the geology of the area and a change to the hotel’s design.
Only board members Chris Cilia, Annick Bonello and Omar Vella voted against the development. All the other members voted in favour, including ERA Chairman Victor Axiak.
Dozens of objectors, including residents, members of environmental organisations and the Archaeological Society of Malta, insisted the project should not be permitted as the area is extremely sensitive and only metres away from the foundations of the iconic Mdina bastions.
Their argument gained more ground as it resulted that certain studies, particularly on the geology where excavations are expected to take place, have not yet been done or were carried only superficially.
Objectors also argued that the project might endanger Mdina’s candidacy to become a Unesco world heritage site.
Board member Chris Cilia, who voted against, was vociferously against the permit, chiding the Planning Authority for pushing this project forward while no one exactly knew whether the area can be dug. He chided the planning directorate for imposing only a €10,000 bank guarantee on the developers.
“So you are telling us that Mdina and Rabat, Malta’s foremost heritage, are worth as much as a second-hand car?” a visibly baffled Cilia said.
Other board members argued that the development’s permit should only be issued once all the studies from the developer’s end are completed.
Yet, clearly favouring the development application, Executive Chairman Martin Saliba insisted that the developer should be given “peace of mind” that he can invest in such a project.
To placate objectors opposing the measly bank guarantee of €10,000, the guarantee was raised to €50,000.
The development is being fronted by Dominic Micallef, whose family used to own Tattingers disco – one of the buildings the development will replace. The new development will host a 5-star hotel with 81 rooms.
Public land is going to be used for this development, including the excavation of two tunnels beneath the road, and to create a pedestrian underground entrance from Triq-it Tigrija, adjacent to a 16th century scheduled building known as Loġġa tal-Palju.
Read more about the project here.