Plans for half-residential, high-density Jerma redevelopment up for consultation

The Planning Authority issued its controversial development brief for the former Jerma Palace Hotel site – which has seen it taken to court by seven NGOs – for public consultation on Monday.

In a statement, the PA said that it had responded to feedback submitted during an initial phase of public consultation to lower the overall development density from a maximum of 100,000sqm to 65,000sqm, though this figure excludes any car parks or services. Despite the reduction, the PA is still suggesting a floor space that is more than double that of the existing hotel and ancillary facilities, which amounts to approximately 30,000sqm.

Initial feedback had been overwhelmingly negative, though the Malta Developers Association and entrepreneur Eman Castagna had suggested rezoning the nearby villa area to accommodate apartment blocks.

But the NGOs who initiated legal action are adamant that the authority had arbitrarily increased the area of the development brief in the first place. Though the South Malta Local Plan only identifies the roughly triangular 17,600sqm metre plot of land occupied by the derelict hotel as subject to a development brief, the actual development brief extends landward to include St Thomas Tower as well as seaward to include the adjacent foreshore.

According to the development brief, none of these additional areas can be developed, as the foreshore will be left untouched while St Thomas Tower and its area are to be rehabilitated for public use. However, their inclusion may allow for increased building density in the remaining site, as they would count as part of the project’s “open space.”

PA calls for a design featuring a “series of building blocks lying on a podium embracing a central plaza, intermixed with landscaped public open areas.”

According to the brief, the maximum height of the complex should be 32 metres above sea level: street level is at 7.8m above sea level, while the lower site has an elevation of 3m. The existing hotel reaches a maximum elevation of 25.5m.

The development should include 26,000sqm of residential property, 33,000sqm devoted to tourism accommodation, 4,200qm set aside for food and beverage facilities and a further 1,800sqm for retail.

The proposed development brief may be viewed through www.pa.org.mt/consultation, and any representations are to be made by sending an email to smlp_consultation@pa.org.mt by 29 July.