The vision of turning Fort Chambray in Gozo into a high-end destination has been reignited after years of neglect and inaction.

Two planning applications have been submitted to take down more than 60 unfinished apartments and construct a hotel and new apartments in a resumption of a project that goes back decades.

The 63 one-, two- and three-bedroomed apartments were built 20 years ago but never used. Under the first application, PA3438/23, they will be dismantled block by block so that the construction material will be used for other parts of the project.

The apartments cover an area of about 2,700 square metres. All the debris dumped there over the years will also be cleared.

In a separate application, Michael Caruana, on behalf of Fort Chambray Ltd, has submitted amended plans to those approved in 2012 and 2017 covering the third phase of the project.

This is for the construction of a hotel and more apartments, and is not yet public.

A source close to the planning process said the third phase envisages a 63-room hotel with the British barracks serving as its base, 50 serviced apartments spread around the hotel and more apartments covering the rest of the area.

The barracks will be carefully dismantled and rebuilt in another part of the site. This will be covered by a separate application. 

The new plans for phase three will cover a smaller footprint than that originally approved in the 2012 masterplan, the source said.

Fort’s history

The fort, overlooking Mġarr harbour, was built in the early 1700s by the Knights of St John as part of their defence strategy against attacks from the sea. It was meant to act as another Ċittadella – a fortified city in which Gozitan people could gather to seek refuge in the event of a siege.

Fort Chambray served as a mental institution in the 1960s but the pre-1971 Nationalist government laid plans to develop it into a tourism establishment with a 320-bed hotel.

However, the 1971 Labour government scrapped those plans and refurbished the mental hospital.

In 1979, the mental health patients were moved elsewhere and the fort was allocated for tourism again. However, hardly any development was carried out there.

It served as a mental institution in the 1960s

In the lead-up to the 1987 election, Labour Party activities were held there and just before that election, the Labour government transferred the fort to the Zammit Tabone family. Still the fort remained undeveloped. In 1993, a 99-year concession for the fort was granted to Fort Chambray Ltd, made up of a Monaco-registered company controlled by an Italian lawyer, Roberto Memmo.

Works started but the project was stalled half way, particularly due to a lack of funding, and the buildings remained in an unfinished state.

In 2004, the government handed over the entire project to Caruana, a Gozitan businessman who also owns the Calypso Hotel and other enterprises.

The fort was eventually transformed into a hub of luxury apartments and became a residential area.

Caruana has now set his sights on finishing the project.

Last year, Times of Malta reported that parts of the fort wall were lying derelict and at risk of collapse as they await long-overdue restoration.

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