Paola local council is planning to hold talks with the authorities for the designation of most of the town as a student priority area to be changed.
The designation means that existing buildings can be converted into single bedroom studio apartments, putting increased pressure on the roads, the infrastructure and living conditions, the council said.
The issue came to the fore when the Planning Authority recently re-issued a permit for 17 apartments in a block that will straddle Triq Bormla and Triq il-Qalb ta' Gesu.
The council said it will seek the permit's revocation because it will allow the building of a penthouse on Triq Bormla, which is an urban conservation area with an unspoilt row of traditional townhouses.
It was also concerned about the quality of the planned building, which sidestepped internal yards by lacking proper demarcation of bedrooms and living areas. The apartments, the council said, would get their natural lighting and ventilation from a single aperture on the facade.
The council said it would also object to the developer's request to the Planning Authority for a reduction of his Urban Improvement Fund. The developer is arguing that since this is a Student Priority Area, the payment for each parking space should be half of the norm.
Planning Authority's defence
Earlier this week, the Planning Authority defended its decision to issue the permit for the proposed apartment block.
It said the streetscape in Triq Bormla in Paola will remain that of two storeys.
It explained that there is an approximate height difference of one storey between Triq Bormla and Triq il-Qalb ta’ Gesu’. The massing of the approved project is focused on Triq il-Qalb ta’ Gesu’ and not Triq Bormla.
The development on Triq Bormla which is characterised by two-storey dwellings and is within the urban conservation area (UCA) of Paola will only be that of a receded floor, as is permissible in all Urban Conservation Areas. In fact, the approved plans include the retention and restoration of the existing façade.
The majority of the studio apartments will overlook Triq il-Qalb ta’ Gesu’, which street falls outside the UCA and is characterised by buildings of various heights.
The authority explained that the designation of student priority area stemmed form Paola's proximity to Mcast.