09 November 2005


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MEPA recommends approval of Hilton extension on public land

James Debono

The Malta Environment and Planning Authority Board will tomorrow be deciding whether to approve the proposed extension to the Hilton Hotel for the development of an unspecified number of apartments on nine floors.
The proposed development also involves the construction of tennis courts and resident’s pool on the public beach adjacent to the fresh water wetland at il-Qaliet.
Despite the fact that notice of this hearing has been issued on Monday, the case officer report which calls for an approval for this development, was only available on the MEPA website yesterday.
MEPA has received a number of objections to this development.
The proposed development of tourist accommodation on nine floors above ground level could endanger an entrenchment wall that is proposed for scheduling as a Grade 1 protected structure. The wall, which was part of a coastal defence structure, dates to 1770 when Malta was ruled by the Knights of Saint John. The structural works required to construct the nine-storey building could effect the stability of the wall.
The entrenchment wall is protected by the Protection of Antiquities Regulations of 1932 and the Cultural Heritage Act.
The proposed development also endangers a number of scheduled properties including Grade 2 residential buildings in Wilga Street.
The construction of nine-storey development adjacent to these buildings could compromise the streetscape and the setting of these important cultural assets.
The proposed tennis courts and resident’s pool are located on the public beach and adjacent to the fresh water wetland at il-Qaliet which is designated under the Development Planning Act as a Level 1 Area of Ecological importance.
Residents have also objected because of their previous negative experience with the construction of the Hilton Hotel.
“Excavations had resulted in damage to the internal and external parts of our property and part of the ceiling of our house collapsed,” one of the residents said in his submission to MEPA.
The environmental NGO Nature Trust is also objecting claiming that the site is subject to an enforcement action.
Yet despite these objections, MEPA’s directorate is still recommending granting this permit as long as it conforms to a number of conditions.
The case officer report states that the development permission does not remove or replace the need to obtain the consent of the land owner and in the case of government owned land a clearance is required from the lands department.
The case officer report states that the permit should be issued on condition that any excavation is subject to the requirements of the civil code as regards neighbouring tenements. It also calls for the full protection of trees, which are to be protected by a one-meter fence.
The report also recommends the appointment at the applicant’s expense of a monitoring consultant who will be responsible for the monitoring of all works relating to the development.

jdebono@mediatoday.com.mt



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