The 38-storey tower and 18-storey hotel proposed for the Institute of Tourism Studies (ITS) site in St George’s Bay have been recommended for approval, with a final decision due on September 20.
In a report published on Monday, the Planning Authority case officer concludes that the controversial project was in line with all relevant policies and would create a “landmark building” in an area designated for high-rise projects due to the predominance of tourism and leisure activities.
The report notes that the development had been “positively reviewed” in its environmental and transport impact assessments.
On the tower’s visual impact, a major factor in the objections to the project, the report states: “Tall buildings are by default and design unequivocally conspicuous. As confirmed by ERA, the impacts on the visual amenity and landscape were a known concern from the outset.”
Tall buildings are by default and design unequivocally conspicuous.
It goes on to note that from long distance views, particularly from the south and west of the island, the project would either not be visible or would blend in with other tall buildings in the area, limiting its impact.
The case officer recommended a planning gain of nearly €1.5 million to fund environmental projects in the area, and a €50,000 contribution to an Arts Council fund for public art.
The PA board is scheduled to vote on the project in a public meeting on September 20.
Read: City Centre project will have significant impacts on surrounding area
The €300 million City Centre project has been the source of significant controversy over the €60 million valuation of the land given to the developers on a 99-year concession. Calculations based on the government’s Paceville master plan put the actual value at €212 million.
More than 4,000 people have submitted objections to the PA - the largest number for any planning application ever considered - including over the visual impact, traffic, noise and dust during construction, overshadowing on nearby residences, and the extension of intensive commercial activity from Paceville.
The Pembroke local council has highlighted the “unsavoury impact” on the town and the “obvious incompatibility of the design”, among other concerns, while the Swieqi and St Julian’s councils have also registered their opposition.
Watch: 'Phantom tunnel' scepticism as Pembroke residents meet ITS site developers
Environmental studies carried out as part of the permit process have concluded that the project will have significant wide-reaching impacts on the surrounding area despite any mitigation measures.
The studies concluded that the project would, together with the adjacent Villa Rosa development, double traffic in the area with the addition of some 7,000 car trips a day, which are planned to be dealt with by a new tunnel.
Transport Malta issued clearance for the project on the basis of this tunnel, for which a separate planning application would have to be submitted.
The project could also have a potentially adverse effect on Għar Ħarq Ħammiem, the largest mean sea level cave complex containing freshwater in Malta, which directly underlies part of the site and above which excavations will take place, according to the studies.
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