A controversial application for a permit to develop a hotel in Birkirkara’s main square has been suspended at the architect’s request and a way forward is being discussed.

The application had sparked revulsion among residents, environment NGOs, politicians and the Church, with representations flowing in, listing a spate of breached planning policies.

Prime Minister Robert Abela had also weighed in on the proposal, implying he believed it should be rejected, saying certain applications should not even be submitted and entertained by planners.

PA 04850/23 seeks to turn a Grade 2 palazzo with a garden into a four-storey, 38-room hotel in the heart of the village core, adjacent to St Helen’s Basilica, itself a scheduled Grade 1 building.

The proposed hotel will transform a palazzo next to St Helen’s basilica.The proposed hotel will transform a palazzo next to St Helen’s basilica.

The application process is currently suspended, pending further consultation by the applicant, E&TM Company Ltd, and its architect Karl Ebejer. No changes have yet been presented.

Apart from the restoration of the existing palazzo to house 10 hotel rooms, the development would also involve the construction of a pool and a building extension in one of the few gardens left in Birkirkara’s UCA for a restaurant and 28 overlying rooms on four floors.

The modern architectural style of the proposed hotel was considered insensitive and disfigured the context of the 18th-century façades of the basilica and other properties in the square, according to objectors. It did not blend with the townscape’s configuration and heavily impacted the development skyline, “sticking out like a sore thumb”, they said.

The proposed hotel would also compromise the value of a unique historical feature, the muxrabija, found on the site to be developed, an architect had warned. 

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