HomeShoppingFour storey Għajnsielem flats, shops approved despite case officer refusal

Four storey Għajnsielem flats, shops approved despite case officer refusal

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The Planning Authority has approved a permit to construct a large five-storey apartment block and shopping outlets in Għajnsielem, Gozo, despite its own case officer’s recommendation for refusal and residents’ objections.

The complex was proposed by Mark Agius, known as Ta’ Dirjanu, the name of his chain of supermarkets, one of which abuts the new project. The recommendation for its refusal noted its breach of planning and urban development policies.

The application (PA/7246/22) was approved last week and will see the demolition of three houses, excavation to make way for three storeys of underground parking along with the construction of three ground-floor shopping outlets and four overlying storeys of apartments.

While existing building material will be reused, the traditional facades will not be retained, and blank party walls will be present on both sides of the development.

The case officer reports for the project note residents’ concerns surrounding the increased commercial activity and an objection by environmental NGO Din L-Art Ħelwa. The report recommended the project’s refusal.

The officer cited a breach of local planning policies in the proposed ground floor retail outlets, which exceeded size limits. The project was also found to run counter to development planning policies aimed at protecting the “character and amenity of urban areas.”

In an update to the report, the Planning Commission’s review of the proposal noted “a number of [existing] large-scale commercial premises… within the streetscape,” which they claimed justified the proposal. One such commercial premises is Agius’ own existing supermarket.

The application was approved on 27 February.

Apart from the retail and apartment complex, last year, Agius also proposed the creation of new roads on undeveloped land in Għajnsielem. If approved, their construction will pave the way for further developments in the small Gozitan village.

Agius is a business partner of developer Joseph Portelli, collaborating on several major projects, such as the long-promised reconstruction of the Msida primary school. Both Portelli and Agius also work closely with the architect Alexander Bigeni.

A few hundred metres up the road in Għajnsielem, Bigeni and associated Gozitan developer Francesco Raniero Grima are proposing another retail complex and apartment block, partially built on outside development zone land. That development is still awaiting a Planning Authority decision.

                           

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