A company owned by Sterling Jewellers has filed plans to turn its shop right in front of Gozo’s Ċittadella into a four-star, 40-room hotel. 

The proposed six-storey project, which includes a receded floor for a rooftop infinity pool overlooking the Grade 1 historic site, will replace a guest house that the Planning Commission quietly approved in May 2018 despite a recommendation for refusal. 

Romina Grech Fenech, on behalf of Sterling Properties Limited, is seeking permission to develop the hotel after the permit for the guesthouse, approved by the commission, expired last June. 

The application was filed with the Planning Authority last month and is currently at the initial vetting stage. The plans were prepared by architect and Mosta mayor Chris Grech. 

The new proposal includes “partial excavation to the required levels” as well as internal and external alterations to the layout of the approved guesthouse to accommodate guest rooms and related ancillary facilities, including a restaurant. 

The project abuts Triq Sir Adrian Dingli, Triq il-Kastell and Triq it-Telgħa Tal-Belt in Victoria’s city centre. The hotel will include a multi-purpose hall, an indoor pool with spa services and ancillary facilities, massage rooms, 34 guest rooms and six suites, with a total of 84 beds. The project includes a jewellery shop and a hairdresser at ground level. 

The suites on the topmost floor will have terraces with a jacuzzi. Most guest rooms overlook an internal courtyard, which will have a retractable skylight on the topmost level. 

The PA’s case officer had recommended the refusal of the permit for the guesthouse because the proposed height of the development ran counter to planning policies included in the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development, which promote a context-driven approach for the control of building heights within urban conservation areas to protect the traditional skyline. 

He had also recommended refusal because it ran counter to other policies which require that building heights are based on a streetscape analysis so as not to create an unacceptable visual impact. 

The commission, however, ignored these recommendations, including a note that clearance from the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage had not been received. 

The new plans have already been reviewed by the Malta Tourism Authority which found no objection as the proposal was still within the parameters of the tourism compliance certificate it had issued in February allowing Sterling Properties to go ahead and submit its planning application for the hotel.

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