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St George's Bay mega-development gets green light

The project stretches from Cresta Quay to the former Institute of Tourism Studies

  • St George's Bay today. Photo: Jonathan Borg

    St George's Bay today. Photo: Jonathan Borg

The Planning Authority has given the go-ahead for a mega-development at St George’s Bay, despite pending concerns over the largest underground cave in Malta, which lies nearby. 

The project, by developer Anton Camilleri, stretches from Cresta Quay to the former Institute of Tourism Studies (ITS) site and includes hotels, apartments, retail and catering outlets, offices and a language school over a total site area of more than 48,000 square metres. 

Villa Rosa will be restored and upgraded as a wedding venue while parts of its extensive gardens will be developed. 

Cresta Quay will also be developed.Cresta Quay will also be developed.

It was approved by the PA board on Thursday with seven votes in favour and three against, amid concerns over Għar Ħarq Ħammiem as well as the historic Dolphin and Moynihan houses, which are set for demolition. 

Only NGO representative Annick Bonello, St Julian’s deputy mayor Albert Buttigieg and board member Timmy Gambin voted against, citing issues of overdevelopment and doubts over the fate of the cave. 

Studies by the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage (SCH) had concluded that the cave - believed to be roughly the size of the Mosta Dome - was under no direct threat from the works, as it extended away from the property and lay at a considerable depth away from the proposed works.

Some excavation will take place within the cave’s 30 metre buffer zone, but developers cited geological reports showing that particular methods could be used that would not endanger the cave. 

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Read: 'Grave concern' about proposed development in St George's Bay

One resident argued that the €255,000 bank guarantee imposed to ensure its protection was not a sufficient deterrent given the overall size of the project. 

St Julian’s deputy mayor Dr Buttigieg highlighted the fact that the application was being considered in the absence of the now-shelved Paceville masterplan. Noting that another major project - the 31-storey Mercury House high-rise - had recently been approved he said the nine sites identified in the masterplan for development were being built-up piecemeal. 

The project is directly adjacent to the proposed ITS redevelopment, which will include a 37-storey tower, with further development planned at the Corinthia and Radisson sites. 

Further concerns were raised during the hearing over the social impact of the project, traffic generation and the strain on service infrastructure. 

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Read: Massive project in St George’s Bay comes under fire

The application had been recommended for approval despite concerns raised by the Environment and Resources Authority following studies which showed negative impacts on visual amenity and heritage structures, as well as the destruction of trees in the St. George’s Bay Hotel site, and the obliteration of the natural landform of the nearby valley due to excavations.

The SCH had raised no objections to the demolition of the two historic properties, noting that Moynihan House was not formally scheduled and had undergone extensive reconstruction, reducing its cultural heritage value to the point where it no longer warranted preservation.

The new construction will include “design details … that will evoke the memory of the British Period Building” while a plaque currently adorning the façade will be retained nearby.

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