The Eden Leisure Group is advertising the availability of commercial office space, which, according to the permit given by the Planning Authority, can only be used for the group.
The Group, controlled by brothers Ian and Kevin De Cesare, applied for extra floors beyond what is permitted in the area for a new hotel development opposite the Intercontinental Hotel in Paceville.
Advertising banners on the new development state “commercial retail and office spaces” are “coming soon”, even though this goes against the permit conditions.
Initially, the Planning Authority had objected to the building of the 13-storey hotel as it included two office floors, which is not permitted according to the Height Limitation Policy.
The Authority gave in when the Malta Tourism Authority approved the touristic development, yet it insisted a condition be imposed – the two additional floors would be used as part of the hotel and only to host the employees of the same group, including those of other hotels in the area, including the Intercontinental. They were not to be rented out as commercial office spaces.
The project has not yet been built, but the space is already being marketed for rent despite a public deed between the Planning Authority, the Malta Tourism Authority and the Eden Leisure Group.
The company did not reply to questions sent by The Shift.
Sources close to the Planning Authority told The Shift that this outcome was what officials had predicted would happen in the screening phase of the application.
“What surprised us most is not that the De Cesares are now trying to go around the permit, but that they are doing so blatantly, in broad daylight.”
While according to the project’s architect, Pierre Farrugia, the two large floors for office space would not be rented out and would be used by the employees of the same group, the design plans submitted by the same architect suggested otherwise.
Yet the Planning Authority issued the permit even though the design approved suggested the use of shared office facilities, including meeting rooms, like other commercial office spaces rented out by competing companies in the same area.
While the hotel group currently employs some 50 office workers, the approved plans include two floors with space to host more than 250 employees.
Earlier this summer, despite excavation work being prohibited in touristic sites, the MTA granted an exemption to the De Cesares to continue their project.
Kevin De Cesare, one of the main shareholders of the Eden Leisure Group, is a government-appointed member on the board of the Malta Tourism Authority, which first gave its consent to the project and then its continuance in the peak tourism season despite laws prohibiting such practices.
He was also appointed to various government boards when disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat was at the helm.