Updated 1.50pm with PA decision

The Planning Authority on Thursday approved a 10-storey hotel in Qawra but put off a decision on a similar 12-storey proposal close to the Augustinian priory in Paceville after a majority of board members indicated they were ready to shoot down the proposal. 

Plans for the 10-storey reconstruction of the Seaview Hotel in Qawra, which include a car tunnel running beneath the promenade and emerging beside the rocky shore, were green-lit by the PA board, with the new 178-room hotel set to occupy the site of the former four-storey building, already demolished under an approved permit.

The development will involve widening an existing culvert into a tunnel to allow vehicles into the hotel’s underground parking area from the seaside access road.

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Although the height limitation policy for the area is set at five floors, planning policy allows all hotels two floors above that and more than two floors if the hotel is stand-alone and of high design quality. The PA’s case officer said that after amendments to the design, the proposal was deemed to justify these criteria. The building height, according to the case officer, “is considered to be relative to the skyline context”.

The Environment and Resources Authority raised no concerns over the hotel, though it warned that the development “might impose visual impact on long distant views and vistas due to its predominant height”.

The environment watchdog did, however, object to plans for a beach concession including 52 deckchairs set on 26 concrete platforms on the coastline. The deckchairs were said to have been scrapped after the ERA noted they would contribute to the “further environmental degradation” of the remaining coastline and open up the area to more development pressure.

However, the deckchairs reappeared in new plans submitted after the ERA’s last comments.

No mention of them is made in the case officer’s report and it is therefore not clear whether they are still being considered.

Environmental NGOs Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar and Din L-Art Ħelwa keep objecting to the proposal due to the building height.

Paceville proposal headed for rejection

The PA board indicated it would refuse plans for a 12-storey extension to the Bay Street hotel on land leased from the Augustinian Order in Paceville. 

The application had been recommended for approval despite concerns by the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage and the Church Environment Commission, which was asked by the Archbishop to look into the matter.

Both said they were worried the hotel’s scale would negatively impact the nearby Augustinian priory and chapel, both Grade 2 scheduled buildings, although the PA case officer played down these concerns. 

Nevertheless, a majority of board members on Thursday stated their intention to vote against the application, primarily over visual and infrastructural concerns. As is the procedure in cases where the board indicates it will go against the case officer's recommendation, a final vote was deferred and will take place in the coming week. The board members' stated intentions are not binding. 

The Augustinian Order, which leased the land for the development, has justified the move as a way of funding its religious, social and educational programmes