Updated 12.01pm

The Planning Authority on Thursday approved a 125-room hotel on the site of the Hunters Tower restaurant in Marsaxlokk.

The permit was approved by nine votes in favour and two against - Timmy Gambin and NGO representive Annik Bonello.

The three-storey hotel will include an underground car park and outside pool and bar area. It had been recommended for approval on the basis of an existing development brief, which encourages tourism developments in the area.

Although the hotel would be located outside development zones, close to the protected marshland area known as Il-Magħluq, the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) has not objected to the plans, which it said were “unlikely to have environmentally significant impacts on the integrity of the marshland”.

Nevertheless, environmental studies concluded that the visual impact of the project “would negatively affect the landscape characteristics and character of the area”.

The hotel will not increase the current built-up footprint of the existing restaurant and its outdoor area but represents a significant increase in height and mass. The restaurant is within the Urban Conservation Area, but is not deemed to have any architectural or historical value.

A notable change from the more traditional landscape that is characteristic of the area

The hotel’s modern architecture will “also dominate the area and represent a notable change from the more traditional landscape that is characteristic of the area”, according to the studies.

The studies concluded that appropriate mitigation measures could minimise the environmental impact, particularly during the construction phase, but that some residual impacts would remain.

The ERA has proposed conditions to safeguard the nearby marshland from contamination, to limit excavation works below sea level and to minimise noise and light emissions.

The Marsaxlokk local council has also not objected to the plans, but insisted the hotel should be run in a sustainable manner that benefits the community, and that the developer should invest in the local environment and tourism industry.

The hotel owner has committed to maintain the marshland site and to promote it “as an educational and eco-touristic hub”.

Concerns have been raised by Nature Trust and Din L-Art Ħelwa, which objected to the commitment of more ODZ land to intensive development.

However, the PA case officer, who recommended the application for approval, said the issues raised had been superseded by the approved development brief.


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