The Marsaskala Residents Network has expressed strong objections to any extension of the built footprint of the abandoned Jerma Hotel site after The Shift revealed last week that the project fronted by Joseph Portelli was selling residential units when an application for a permit had not even been filed.
The residents’ group said the massive project envisaged by Portelli for the Jerma site “is yet again another case of a project that is being set before permits are given, where speculation is rife, and the pressure on the PA to approve before public consultation is enormous”.
Marsaskala PN local councillor John Baptist Camilleri, who, together with the residents’ group, was consistently vocal against the Marsaskala marina proposal, told The Shift that “this land was sacrificed for a hotel” and that “it must only remain a hotel”.
Permanent sea-facing residential units forming part of the abandoned Jerma hotel in Marsaskala are being sold on plan without a permit starting from €850,000, with units being sold off as ‘buy-to-let’ only starting from €279,000.
“We haven’t seen detailed plans, however we are strongly against any extension of the built footprint or further invisibility of St Thomas Tower from land or sea,” a spokesperson for the residents’ group said.
The local councillor also told The Shift that if the people behind Portelli’s project “cannot sustain a hotel” without residential units, “then they must clear the site and return it to its original form”.
“Another worrying factor is that two pieces of land adjacent to St Thomas Tower were also given to the owners to create a larger footprint, which paves the way for more manipulation,” Camilleri said.
In their responses, the residents’ group said they also oppose any form of land reclamation taking place in the area and that they do not favour the inclusion of residential units for Portelli’s project.
According to new information obtained from resellers marketing Portelli’s project, the residential units are divided into two categories: the cheapest options are 70sqm studio and one-bedroom apartments facing St Thomas Tower starting from €279,000. A different agent selling properties from the same site was stating such units were for sale starting from €290,000.
However, buyers would not be able to permanently settle in these residencies, with sources informing The Shift that they are being sold as ‘buy-to-let’ properties only. Questions have been sent to J Portelli Projects, the developer’s company, about why these units are being sold this way and why the units are being marketed before the PA approves the project. No replies were received at the time of publication.
Buyers seeking to purchase one of the permanent residential properties must choose the more expensive route. These units, around 160sqm in size and featuring three bedrooms, are being sold starting from €850,000. Overall, agents have been tight-lipped about further details, asking for one-to-one meetings to share more detailed project plans.
Portelli’s developments, including Paceville’s 32-storey Mercury Towers, have been consistently approved by the Planning Authority (PA) even when faced with significant opposition and documented abuse of planning laws.
Three months after Portelli’s acquisition of the Jerma site, which was previously designated as a tourism-only site, the government changed the development brief, allowing for residential development.
Portelli is the same developer who, during the general elections, organised a dinner for major Gozitan contractors and entrepreneurs, with Prime Minister Robert Abela as the guest of honour on the eve of a fundraising telethon organised by the Party.
The development brief for the Jerma site states it would take up a total of 65,000sqm, with 26,000sqm allotted for residential development.
According to adverts on social media, the project would also feature a five-star hotel and commercial outlets. One agent told a source who contacted The Shift that the developer aims for a five-year time frame to complete the project.