A planning application by the Marsaxlokk Football Club to build a hostel, an old people’s home and new stands for its existing football pitch has been recommended for approval by the Planning Authority’s case officer.

The report concluded that the proposed facilities on the site are considered an “acceptable improvement” to the current situation so the Planning Directorate is recommending it for approval.

A digital render of what the proposed sports complex with an old people’s home and a hostel would look like once completed. Photo: Planning AuthorityA digital render of what the proposed sports complex with an old people’s home and a hostel would look like once completed. Photo: Planning Authority

The planning application by Marsaxlokk FC seeks to turn the site of 13,225 square metres, which is outside the development zone, into a 188-bed hostel and 255-room old people’s home. Photomontages indicate that the complex will be an urban sprawl of a building and will include a childcare centre, a social club, food and drink establishments and a physiotherapy clinic.

The planning application has attracted over 160 objections, many of which pointed out that the development was slated to intensify an area outside the development zone and that this runs against a number of planning policies.

The application is also proposing development on public land for which the applicant does not hold a legal title.

The development, objectors have argued, will significantly alter the skyline due to its proximity to the Marsaxlokk coastline.

They also questioned the placement of the old people’s home next to a football pitch, which already produces significant noise and light pollution in its present state.

Government-owned parking spaces which are used on a daily basis will be eaten up by the development, objectors said, while the old people’s home will replace an existing green area. Objectors also felt that the height of the home for the elderly and the capacity of the hotel are massive.

The Malta Developers Association has also strongly objected to the application, saying in a statement that a state-subsidised sports club would be competing with private investors who cannot similarly rely on government aid.

Speaking to Times of Malta, Marsaxlokk councillor Daniel Zerafa, himself a former secretary of the club, said that,  while he would like to see the club find opportunities to grow and be profitable, he questions if all are truly going to benefit from this use of public land.

“My love for the club is in conflict with my position as a councillor but such positions are always temporary and decisions that are made can last forever and impact many generations to come,” he said.

He said the club had initially filed an application in 2020 to develop a second pitch on top of an adjacent car park with facilities. It had hit a nerve with locals and prompted several objections, after which the application was withdrawn and sent back to the drawing board.

“You have to keep in mind that the area is situated in a valley, on public land outside the development zone and described as an ‘opportunity area’ in the Marsaxlokk bay local plan,” Zerafa said.

“Furthermore, the Kavallerizza development brief for the area never materialised, which created friction with recently passed legislation that allows commercialisation for sports clubs.”

Following a meeting with Sports Minister Clifton Grima, both the club and the local council agreed that the club would be granted a portion of public land from the car park and a subterranean piece of the nearby Port Ruman Garden, which will remain public.

This led to the creation of the proposal as it is today.

“This consists of a four-storey building with a basement, blocking the sea view around the whole valley area, situated between a motorway, a hardstanding facility for fishing vessels, the football ground itself, a fish farm facility and approved boat storage,” Zerafa said.

“The public garden will be uprooted and redesigned too. So much for a retiree’s peace and quiet.

“Who are the developers? Who is going to profit from public land? Just the club or someone else?”

He expressed disappointment that not more people nor district MPs were expressing much concern over the issue.

“The council had neither taken a vote nor decided on the matter,” he said.

“It has futilely waited for the club or the PA to hold a public presentation and show what they are proposing but, instead,  during an informal meeting on December 1, I was told by the chairman that they are not obliged to do so and that the representation period has closed.

“I urge councillors to vote in a motion next week and take a position on this issue. I hope those who are genuinely concerned will do their part.”

The application is slated to be decided on December 15 at 10am.

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