Development brief for former Jerma Palace Hotel site approved

The Planning Authority has published a development brief for the site of the ex-Jerma Palace Hotel in Marsascala and its surroundings

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The Planning Authority (PA) has published a development brief for the site of the ex-Jerma Palace Hotel in Marsascala and its surroundings. The policies from the South Malta Local Plan of 2006 led to a change in the possible land uses, which now give the public access to the seashore and includes both residential and touristic accommodation. The hotel closed down in 2007 and the site has been abandoned ever since.

The brief has two main principles – enabling the economic development of the site and safeguarding its environmental qualities. Primarily, it facilitates the economic development of the site. It takes into consideration the environmental elements of the area and protects the coast. This document specifies that the coast cannot be encroached and will be made accessible to the public. Furthermore, the design proposals must provide for visibility of St Thomas Tower, a very important feature from an urban point of view.

“The aim of this revised policy is to give access to the general public to the seashore, which was not possible before. The policy also guides potential investors as to what development is allowed,” said Perit Joseph Scalpello, Assistant Director for Planning. “The site is currently run-down, an eyesore in such a beautiful area. We have identified strict guidelines as to what development can take place, giving a clear direction for future applications. The brief also gives prominence to St Thomas Tower, an iconic and important historical building.”

The brief outlines details for investors who are interested in developing the site, while simultaneously protecting its surrounding environment by fostering a comprehensive planning framework for the future regeneration of the urban coast in Marsascala. The PA issued a draft brief for public consultation, whereby the general public was invited to send their representations. Considerable feedback was given by residents, various entities and NGOs, with both stages of public consultation determining that the primary concerns relate to the building height limitations and change of land use.

Preliminary assessments, carried out before the publication of the policy, indicated that the increased height of 6.5m over the existing hotel building will not result in an unacceptable negative impact on the surrounding residential area and coastal views.

“The regeneration of this area in Marsascala will benefit the public and investors alike; in terms of planning, having a mix of land uses is always beneficial. This brief specifies that the main goal of the project is to offer more public open spaces to improve society’s well-being whilst providing accommodation for tourists and residents, and commercial development.”

The Comprehensive Planning Area is split into four distinct zones. The developable site area, which will accommodate the new building, makes up 33% of the total site plan. A further 35% will be designated to protecting the foreshore and ensuring it is accessible to the public, with another 5% of the area consisting of public streets which will ensure access to private property outside the brief area.

The St Thomas Tower is also central to any possible future development, with 26% of the area designated to the scheduled building in order to ensure that it is safeguarded for public use. A continuous public open space shall also be created from the tower leading down to the coast; facilitating public access through the development, which is currently obstructed. The link between the northern and southern areas will also remain undeveloped and view corridors to and from the tower from promontories around the site and the sea shall be considered in any design.

Furthermore, the Superintendent for Cultural Heritage is to issue the terms for restoration of the tower for the benefit of the public. This will be paid for through the developer’s contributions to the Development Planning Fund. A contribution of €25 per sqm of Gross Developable Floor space (GDF) is to be made to the Development Planning Fund as planning gain. As the total revised GDF is 65,000sqm, this will result in a total contribution of €1.6m. The funds shall be allocated towards the costs of the restoration of St Thomas Tower, internally and externally; including the rehabilitation of the ditch and the glacis.

Perit Scalpello also made it clear that the brief provides the policy framework and that every permit application will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, with various impact assessments carried out as necessary. Infrastructure sustainability measures will also be incorporated in any development, with water and drainage systems, electrical utilities and roads being upgraded as required at the expense of the developer. The goal here is to limit the impact on the surrounding coastal area, residential areas and the St Thomas Tower.

This brief has been approved and endorsed by Minister Hon. Aaron Farrugia. The PA will now await investor applications, but Perit Scalpello estimated that it might take 12 to 18 months until a permit is issued and construction on the derelict site commences. This is due to the various assessments that must be carried out.

All the details of this approved development brief together with the respective maps may be viewed on the Authority’s website: https://www.pa.org.mt/en/development-brief-details/jerma-development-brief.

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