Updated 4.50pm

Controversial plans for a hotel on the Delimara coastline were approved by the Planning Authority on Thursday during a meeting that had to be suspended after turning rowdy.

The plans were approved with eight votes in favour and three against.

Environmental Resources Authority chairman Victor Asiak, NGOs representative Annick Bonello and Opposition representative Marthese Portelli opposed the plans, citing the area's rural and coastal characteristics and saying the hotel would increase area's built-up footprint.

A dilapidated hotel in Kalanka Bay will now be turned into an “ecological boutique hotel” with luxury suites, bar and restaurant, and public beach facilities.

Read: Delimara hotel redevelopment proposal in ODZ area unacceptable

Additional plans for a tunnel linking the hotel to the beach area, which environmental studies concluded would undermine the stability of the nearby cliff face, were withdrawn by the developers.

Meeting suspended due to rowdiness

The meeting on Thursday had to be suspended for around 40 minutes when an activist, Robert Fenech, speaking against the development was asked by PA board chairman Vince Cassar to leave the room due to “disrespectful” behaviour, but refused to do so until police were called.

Mr Fenech had been asking questions during his allocated speaking time but began to raise his voice when it appeared he was being ignored.

As the meeting grew increasingly rowdy, he was asked to leave the room after the chairman also took exception to his insistence on referring to board members by their first names.

Awkward: people wait in silence as an activist asked to leave the hearing declines to comply. Video: Philip Leone Ganado

Mr Cassar refused to continue the meeting, and normal order was only restored after the activist calmly left the meeting when asked to do so by the police.

In a statement issued some hours after the decision, the PA insisted Mr Fenech calling board members by their first names had nothing to do with his expulsion. 

The activist, the PA said, "repeatedly showed lack of respect to the Board and members of the public," and failed to abide by the rules. 

"The Board always gives the public present at these meetings the space and time to question and voice their concerns about any project which is being discussed," the PA said. 

ERA objects to plans

The case had been recommended for approval by the Planning Authority despite hundreds of objections from environmental groups and members of the public, who argued that the development will negatively impact a remote and rural coastal area, outside development zones.

The Environment and Resources Authority also objected to the proposal, which it said should be “significantly downscaled and limited to “a lower-key structure that does not in any way exceed the dimensions of the existing building”.

Permanently alter… this untouched gem

Thursday's meeting, attended by Malta Developers Association chairman Sandro Chetcuti, said the association supported the proposal since the development was not on virgin land and would remove an eyesore that had been there for many years.

Read: Delimara hotel redevelopment proposal in ODZ area unacceptable

The activist eventually left when asked to do so by police called in by PA chairman Vince Cassar. Video: Philip Leone Ganado

PA trumpets decision as 'new window of opportunity'

In a statement issued within hours of the decision being taken, the PA said that the project would "open a new window of opportunity for tourism accommodation in the south of Malta." 

The PA said that the "high end, ecological boutique hotel" to be built would not exceed the 1,040m² footprint taken up by the derelict building and its existing hard landscaping, and that flatly-installed PV panels would only be allowed at roof level.

In a separate decision, the PA Board refused an application to extend an open storage facility in ODZ land bordering Swieqi and Għargħur. Approving the application, the baord said, would encourage further piecemeal development in a predominantly rural area. 

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