A property in Wied Għomor, St Julian’s, which has been operating as a guesthouse for months, will remain without a change-of-use permit after the developer withdrew the application which was slated for refusal.

The move came after the Planning Authority indicated that it will refuse a permit for two newly-built villas to be turned into a guesthouse.

The Planning Authority’s committee that deals with applications in ODZ and urban conservation areas was informed last week that the application had been withdrawn at the applicant’s request.

The application, filed by architect Anthony Fenech Vella on behalf of his client Karl Camilleri, sought to convert two newly-built villas off Triq Mikiel Ang Borg, close to Spinola Bay, into a guesthouse.

It had originally been recommended for approval, with no mention made of the fact that the guesthouse, The Valley, had been accepting bookings since at least the start of June without a planning permit but with a compliance certificate issued by the Malta Tourism Authority. 

Previous applications were merely steppingstones leading to this proposal

But at a recent hearing, the Planning Commission concluded that the application should be rejected based on the illegal use. 

The board also cited rural policy which allows a change of use of ODZ buildings only if the replacement “would result in a wider environmental benefit” and if the site is already serviced by an adequate road network.

The case was deferred for a formal decision but the application was withdrawn. 

The building in Wied Għomor is covered by planning permission for two residential villas and swimming pools, which were approved in place of dilapidated structures on site by successive permits in 2017 and 2018. 

As soon as the permits were approved, the owners filed a further application last year to change the use of the buildings to a 12-room guesthouse. 

The Environment and Resources Authority (ERA), which objected to the application, said it appeared that the previous applications were merely “steppingstones leading to this proposal”.

The St Julian’s and Swieqi local councils also objected to the plans, as did environ-mental groups Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Din l-Art Ħelwa and Nature Trust.

The guesthouse is the latest in a long list of development applications in Wied Għomor – a scheduled site of scientific and ecological importance – in recent years, all of which have been consistently opposed by the councils of surrounding localities.

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