The developer of an 11-storey hotel in Sliema has signed a tripartite agreement with the tourism and planning watchdogs binding him to utilise the building exclusively as a hotel, according to the Planning Authority.

As he defended the decision to grant the permit for the hotel in Sliema’s Howard Street, a spokesman for the Planning Authority said the public deed put to rest objectors’ concerns that the developers could be exploiting a Malta Tourism Authority policy that allows “high-quality” hotels to rise higher than apartment blocks.

One of the objectors was Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar which had expressed concern that the building could subsequently be converted to flats two floors higher than what is normally permitted, simply because it had been granted a permit based on tourism considerations.

Earlier this month, the Planning Authority gave its blessing to the massive hotel in a narrow residential street in Sliema, despite the significant negative impacts on residents in terms of disturbance and traffic.

The application for the 82-suite hotel was originally recommended for refusal but was overturned at the hearing, with a Planning Authority spokesman saying that the concerns had been addressed prior to the last hearing.

“The decision taken by the [planning] commission chaired by Simon Saliba, was carefully assessed and evaluated,” the spokesman insisted as he explained that the decision was postponed so that the commission could carry out a site inspection.

Following this, the commission informed the applicant that the blank party walls the proposed hotel was going to create needed to be redesigned and approved by the Design Advisory Committee and that a transportation management plan was needed to address any potential traffic problems.

“These criteria were all satisfied by the applicant prior to the decision taken by the commission,” he said, after both the Design Advisory Committee and Transport Planning Unit gave their seal of approval. Moreover, the commission noted that the existing site context where the hotel was being proposed was already “strongly committed by commercial development”.

Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar argued that the approved hotel could subsequently be converted to flats two floors higher than what is normally allowed, and that the height limitation policy only applied to hotels that were going to provide ‘high quality’ facilities.

The spokesman countered that according to the MTA, “the size of the rooms is adequate, and facilities exceed minimum standards [making the] project an upgrade to the product”.

The applicant, Josef Dimech on behalf of J & J Holdings, was bound by a bank guarantee and was ordered to pay over €25,000 to the Commuted Parking Payment Scheme to make up for the shortfall of parking spaces on site.

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