A Sliema hotel fraught with construction illegalities – such as the unapproved construction of additional floors, a spa and a gym – is attempting to sanction those same illegalities after the Planning Authority (PA) had refused to do so four years ago.
Specifically, the latest sanctioning application (PA/5110/21) filed by the 1926 Hotel & Spa refers to “variations” from a permit that had previously been granted in 2016. The application is being assessed by a PA case officer and is awaiting a recommendation.
While the 2016 permit allowed for “minor internal alterations” and the addition of three floors, Roosendaal Hotels Ltd (the company behind the 1926 brand) also extended the hotel’s basement and added a restaurant, spa, bar, gym and additional storeys to the building.
Standard sanctioning applications often seek to ensure minor deviations from the original permit, like an additional window or washroom on the roof, are in line with PA policy and the original plans themselves. In this case, the amount of illegal development completely eclipses what has originally been allowed.
In fact, back in 2018 Roosendaal Hotels Ltd attempted to obtain permission and then later sanction its illegal development, but failed in its efforts. One application was withdrawn by the applicant, while the other was refused by both the PA and the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal (EPRT).
While the withdrawn application had sought permission to develop the site further, the second seeks to sanction further development that was already built, meaning that the hoteliers went ahead and began building and adding more floors to their hotel without planning permission.
Roosendaal Hotels Ltd is entirely owned by Bortex Group Holdings Company Ltd, which, in turn, is owned by siblings Karen and Peter Borg.
The group is known to have developed close ties with the Labour Party decades ago, and it was the same group that had a business connection with the Leisure Clothing manufacturing factory, which was accused of trafficking North Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese workers to Malta where they were forced to labour in well-documented inhumane and illegal conditions.
Besides a questionable history of planning applications, the 1926 Hotel and Spa site has also been slapped with two enforcement notices since 2005.
The first enforcement notice, which was closed off after sanctioning permission was granted, is relatively minor and refers to the roofing of an internal ground floor shaft and the creation of a new access door without a permit (EC/273/05).
Another enforcement notice filed in 2019 specifically refers to works without a permit consisting of alterations on all the hotel’s floors, including an extension to the 10th floor and the construction of a penthouse on the 11th floor.
This enforcement notice was appealed by the hoteliers and remains pending befotre the EPRT, with the next hearing scheduled for 6 October. According to the PA’s site, daily fines on the enforcement notice are still due to the Authority.