ERA totally against Refalo’s proposed ODZ Qala Hotel

The Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) is completely against the proposed development in Qala where the former Minister Anton Refalo is attempting to build a hotel on land considered Outside the Development Zone (ODZ).

Newsbook.com.mt had revealed that the wife of the Chairperson for Heritage Malta, Anton Refalo, applied to build a hotel with seven rooms on ODX land in Qala. The existing building is called l-Eremita, in Triq ta’ Ġulju in Qala.

Esklussiva: L-eks Ministru Anton Refalo jrid ikompli jibni f’ODZ

In its report submitted to the Planning Authority, the ERA said that due to the small size of the land upon which the farm is found, an environment assessment will not happen. It said that since the application does not qualify for assessment, the opinion of objection to the development remains due to the affects of this land’s usage on the surrounding area. The ERA said that it is worried that the approval of this development can lead to more use which will not be compatible with the rural zone.

The ERA submitted this conclusion after new plans by the architect indicated that the hotel will specialise in Yoga, as Refalo had said in comments to this newsroom:

From wine cellar to yoga retreat: a tale of Refalo’s ODZ cave

The ERA’s conclusion was the following:

a) The PDS has been reviewed and ERA is of the opinion that the scale of the proposal and its impacts does not warrant an EIA.

b) However, although the proposal does not qualify for further EIA studies, this requirement is secondary to ERA’s overriding objection in view of the salient issues related to the conflicts of the proposed use and its ancillary demands with the surrounding environmental and landscape context.

c) ERA is concerned approval of this proposal would further consolidate uses which are not characteristic of rural areas…

Involved entities

Apart from the ERA, a number of entities made their representations with the Authority:

The day after Newsbook.com.mt revealed the news, the Planning Authority received five representations against the project, with the objections being from people who live in Malta. There were no objections submitted by Gozitan residents.

The Superintendent for Cultural Heritage asked Refalo’s architect for an inspection on site due to not enough photos of the site being presented, including photos of the cave as indicated in the plans.

The Malta Tourism Authority, although not licensing the proposed hotel on site, still said that that if the Planning Authority releases the appropriate permits, it is ready to grant it a three-star hotel or guesthouse permit.

Din L-Art Ħelwa meanwhile said that it is embarrassing that ODZ land is being allowed to progress from a farm to a hotel in 20 years.

Development on site throughout the years. Photo: PA Geo-Portal

Permits throughout the years

2001 – MEPA sanctions illegal development.
2004 – Former Minister Anton Refalo applies to build a pool.
2009 – Permit given to Lina Refalo, Anton Refalo’s wife, the amend the landscaping scheme and to regularise the well gathering rain-water for irrigation.
2014 – Permit for the renewal of the 2009 permit.
2018 – New application for two-bedroom accommodation to change to seven-room hotel.