The Planning Authority on Thursday shot down a proposed development of a residential complex atop a large Qormi warehouse comprising 142 rooms for shared living by people who travel to Malta for work.

Proposed by the Vella Falzon Group - a firm involved in the bathroom, flooring, furniture, and building industry - the development would have provided rooms where expats could live at affordable prices, the PA board was told.

However, the board was not convinced, particularly due to concerns that this proposed residential complex would not have provided decent living quarters for people travelling to Malta for work.

The “assisted living residential accommodation” project aimed to provide “care to people in need” was proposed over a warehouse which was previously the GDL Building between Triq il-Furnar and Triq tal-Bajjada in Qormi.

The outline application, which was immediately thrown out at the concept stage, would have included a reception and offices on the ground floor, a canteen, a games room, office space and a computer room at the first-floor level and 142 rooms from the second to the fourth level with laundry facilities.

The size, with a total area of close to 3,200 square metres, would have seen each room built at an average area of just under 37 square metres.

The PA’s Development Management Directorate noted that the site chosen for such a proposal was incompatible with planning policies. The area is characterised by different types of development, is dominated by commercial uses and is located at the edge of a mixed-use area. The site itself is covered by an approved permit for a warehouse.

“The proposed facility is considered incompatible with the existing [industrial] use and cannot be considered acceptable in terms of amenity for the proposed use,” the case officer concluded in the report which recommended a refusal.

Furthermore, the proposal failed to provide adequate parking provision on site and did not reach the requirements of the Sanitary Engineering Office and the Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disability, it added.

An architect from firm A360 told the board the proposal included what he described as an "atrium" running through the entire depth of the property, consisting of 20 per cent of the site. He said this “flooded” the rooms with natural light and ventilation.

He said the underlying warehouse was a store and did not have industrial uses and that the project aimed to serve those who came to Malta for work and were struggling to find decent accommodation.

Applicant  Alex Vella Falzon said these people were coming to Malta for work but were not finding somewhere to live at an affordable rate.

"We are proposing a secure, guarded complex, providing food on-site, instead of allowing these workers to live in garages, stables or packed like sardines in apartments, he said.

“We will rent at an extremely low price that no one can beat on the market. I already have two local companies who want to rent out all rooms for their employees because they understand that it’s better than having 17 people crammed in a three-bedroom apartment.

"What is their alternative with a salary of €900 a month? We are providing this alternative,” he told the PA board members.

However, PA chairman Martin Camilleri expressed concern that the proposed rooms “do not seem like a decent accommodation with such small windows”.

He also said that apart from the lack of parking, the site was not the right one for the proposed development.

When he put the project to the vote, board members unanimously voted it down.

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