Update 2: Mepa approves Zaren Vassallo's Qormi development

The Mepa board has approved a project which will transform the former Lowenbrau brewery on the outskirts of Qormi into a multi-purpose space including a supermarket and two reception halls.

The project was opposed by Labour Party representative Roderick Galdes, who alleged yesterday that the project, proposed by construction magnate Zaren Vassallo, had been fast-tracked for approval because Mr Vassallo is a PN benefactor. The development will turn the disused brewery into a commercial space spanning several thousand square metres. It will include 194 parking spots.

Speaking today, Mr Galdes said that while Labour approved such projects, shortcomings in this proposal needed to be addressed, including inadequate on-site parking. He noted that this project was originally targeted to come before the board in June next year but had been moved forward. He proposed postponement by a month to discuss its shortcomings. His proposal was rejected.

Qormi Mayor Rosienne Cutajar said the council was against the project as proposed. She noted that works were already underway on the site and said enforcement officers should check what was going on. She said Qormi Council felt a Retail Impact Assessment should be carried out.

She also expressed concern about possible traffic congestion and inadequate on-site parking. This, she said, was a shopping complex, not just a supermarket, and opening hours were different and longer. The development would also feature function halls, which meant parking facilities would have to be shared with the nearby horse races, creating difficulties.

Mepa explained that a Traffic Impact Statement (TIS)  was carried out by the applicant’s consultants and approved by Transport Malta, indicated that the parking provisions of 310 car parking spaces on site were considered to be sufficient for the busiest shopping times. A Green travel plan was also presented which includes a number of measures which will seek to mitigate the traffic impact within this area. 

A Retail Impact Assessment screening report was also carried out. The screening report concluded that the proposed development was not going to significantly impact the retailing business in the surrounding town centers. The Planning Directorate confirmed that the proposed development was not going to alter the retail floorspace ratio, so a full Retail Impact Assessment was not considered necessary. 

The Board also noted that this application did not bypass planning procedures or receive some form of preferential treatment for it to be determined within 26 weeks from the date of validation.  

The initial submission pertaining to this application was submitted on February 23, 2011. On  September 7, 2011, the Planning Directorate issued the screening letter which indicated all the studies and documentations the applicant had to submit for the application to be validated. The plans with the requested studies were submitted to the Planning Directorate during the first six months of 2012. On  June 13, 2012, the Planning Directorate validated and started processing the application so that within the legal timeframe, it would give the applicant a decision. 

In April 2012, the Authority, through the publication of legal notice 116/12 reduced the processing timeframes for various types of planning applications. The timeframe for all major project applications was reduced from 52 to 26 weeks.

The Mepa board members voted 7-3 in favour of the project. Judge Giovanni Bonello and architect Sandra Magro also voted against.



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