A development brief for the ex-Jerma Palace Hotel in Marsascala is being prepared by the Planning Authority in order to establish clear parameters on the regeneration of the site which has been left abandoned since 2007.

One of the main objectives of the exercise is to come up with a maximum allowable building height limit, which has been a source of controversy each time the site has been earmarked for redevelopment.

The move, which is the result of a formal request by the government to the Planning Authority, comes at a time when the site is being earmarked for a 15-storey hotel and apartment complex.

Submitted last year by Porto Notos Limited, the development application comprises 166 luxury apartments, 250 hotel rooms, an underground parking, business centre, public chapel and a lido.

Moreover, the developer is pledging to extend the landscaped area around the historic St Thomas Tower, and create a public open space above the proposed parking to extend the promenade. 

However, the application is currently suspended at the developer’s request.

Development briefs are meant to provide an outline for the scale, range and quality of development for a particular site while flagging any constraints. In this case, the proposed development brief aims to create a comprehensive plan for the regeneration of the urban coast.

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Moreover, the brief says that any development must include tourism accommodation, and that it shall never be smaller, in terms of gross developable floorspace (GDF), than the ex-Jerma Hotel.

As for the residential element, it is being proposed that this shall not exceed 40 per cent of the total allowable GDF. Apart from allowing commercial uses, the brief says that the PA would also consider other uses which could contribute to the regeneration of the coast.

From a more holistic perspective, the brief says that the overall development density must not exceed 100,000 square metres of GDF, excluding the spaces for car parks and services, regardless of the position of the floorspace in relation to street level.

Another objective is to include an urban design framework providing guidelines on the site layout, architectural treatment, massing, colour, texture and materials of the buildings, road access, parking and landscaping requirements. These must be accompanied by a clear indication of the criteria used to determine the maximum allowable height limit and site coverage.

The brief also makes it clear that public access to the foreshore must be safeguarded and enhanced, and to have necessary mitigation measures to reduce potential adverse impacts of the development, particularly on scheduled buildings and the natural coast. 

In this respect, the proposed complex by Porto Notos Limited could adversely impact long-distance views of the historic St Thomas Tower and nearby residences. Such a conclusion stemmed from a Project Description Statement (PDS) carried out as part of the planning process.

However, the PDS noted that the existing derelict hotel was already hindering the strategic views of these buildings.

This is the latest in a series of attempts to redevelop the Jerma, once one of the island’s largest and most prestigious hotels. 

An earlier plan for three towers and extensive land-reclamation was shot down by the Planning Authority as a non-starter and the current proposal was endorsed in principle by the Marsascala local council in 2017.

Submissions on the proposed development brief may be sent on smlp@pa.org.mt or by post to the Planning Authority, by not later than November 11.