Just 16 months after giving the go-ahead to two dilapidated buildings in Wied Għomor to be turned into new villas with pools, the Planning Authority is now considering plans for the villas to become a guesthouse.
A permit for the redevelopment of the derelict buildings, located outside development zones between St Julian’s and Swieqi, was approved in May 2017 despite multiple objections from residents and local councils due to the impact on the protected valley.
Objectors were further incensed when new plans were submitted last September for a change of use from villas into a guesthouse.
“The proposed guesthouse will manifestly generate a great deal more activity and, in particular, light and noise pollution than the original farmhouse and approved two residences,” the Swieqi local council wrote in its objection to the new application.
“Two families would be replaced by 12. The effect on fauna in the valley would be grave and needs to be restrained if the planning policies regarding conservation of natural environment is to be taken seriously,” it added.
Public consultation on the proposal closes today
Among more than 100 objections submitted to the planning watchdog in recent weeks, residents and environmental groups also argue that the proposal goes against planning regulations for the area, which encourage rural development and exclude commercial projects.
Public consultation on the proposal closes on Friday, with a decision expected in January.
The guesthouse is the latest in a long line of development applications targeting Wied Għomor in recent years, all of which have been consistently opposed by the councils of nearby localities, which highlighted the valley’s importance as a green lung in the wider urban area.
A five-storey guesthouse on the valley side in St Julian’s was approved last April on a site, originally a dilapidated building, which, like the new application, had first been granted permission for a villa.
The Environment and Resources Authority had warned that the additional height and massing was likely to visually intrude onto Wied Għomor and that approval would set a precedent for similar development on existing vacant plots within the area.
The PA is also considering an application for three office blocks that would stand instead of a disused cow farm in the heart of the valley. There is also a pending application for a seven-storey apartment block.
A major proposal for a 133-bed retirement home is subject to a court appeal by the developers after a permit issued in 2016 was overturned by the planning review tribunal last April.