Hotelier Winston Zahra dedicated an hour of his time on Monday evening to two young Facebook users who criticised his planned Golden Sands Oasis development in Għajn Tuffieħa.
Island Hotels Group, which is behind the luxury hotel, held a question and answer session after several people slammed aspects of the plans on a Facebook group about the Oasis set up two weeks ago.
But out of the tens of complainants, only two young men showed up to face the CEO of the hotel group on Monday. They asked about the project’s plans for water and energy conservation, environmental precautions and the hotel’s aesthetic value.
Mr Zahra stressed that the hotel was a “recycling” project of the old Ħal Ferħ resort, using the same amount of built up area and conserving the valuable structures, including the chapel. He said the project did not affect the nearby beach and was almost entirely covered by native vegetation.
Mr Zahra pointed out that his company’s plans were chosen in line with the development brief issued by the planning authority some years back to develop the dilapidated site in a way that respected the surroundings.
The plans had been negatively compared to an F1 racetrack but Mr Zahra said the concept was inspired by Malta’s famous walled cities like Mdina and Valletta. The majority of the hotel rooms are placed underneath the road, practically covered in vegetation so as to have the least impact possible. He added that NGOs and residents had been consulted on the project to ensure that everyone would be satisfied.
The two young men who attended the session were satisfied by his responses and thanked the company for taking their concerns seriously enough to hold such a session.
“It’s good that they’ve taken the ecology and sustainability into consideration. This is not another hotel in the countryside. They’re using a place that had already been built-up,” said Andrè Portelli, 18, a member of Moviment Graffitti.
“The choice is between upgrading the current structures or building something new. Their plans seem to be nicer than what there is today. I’m quite impressed by the images I saw today,” said his friend, Andrè Schembri, 20. “I’m also very satisfied by Mr Zahra’s approach. Instead of fighting with us, he met us and discussed.”
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