HomeShoppingPA postpones decision on two-storey addition to Qormi’s shopping mall

PA postpones decision on two-storey addition to Qormi’s shopping mall

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The Planning Authority deferred a decision on a two-storey addition to the Centerparc shopping complex consisting of a Do It Yourself (DIY) centre by a month, to give more time to the developer to improve the design of the project which was found lacking in various aspects.

The board called for changes including the relocation of services from the rooftop to reduce the height of the project which is 2.6 meters higher than what is allowed by the local plan.

They also called for changes in the use of cladding and the colour of the material used. A proposed boundary wall also has to be redesigned to match better with the reconstructed rustic farmhouse, which has been integrated in the project.

But these changes do not address the major concern expressed by some board members related to the project’s traffic impact.

The case officer report includes a condition imposed by Transport Malta of a contribution of 10 euro per square metre of additional commercial floor space to contribute towards the upgrade of the junction between Triq it-Tigrija and Triq l-Iljun.

But some board members expressed concern that no concrete plans for the area have been presented so far. “Are we putting the cart before the horse?” asked NGO representative Romano Cassar. No representative of Transport Malta was present for the meeting.

But Board chairman Emmanuel Camilleri said it would be unfair to keep the developer in limbo until plans are presented. “We should not put the developer in a catch-22 situation… I believe Transport Malta has its plans for the area and they cannot do everything at the same time.” But he agreed that a holistic plan is needed for the area.

The traffic issue is also partly addressed through the implementation of a green travel plan which aims at reducing peak hour traffic by 30%.

NGO representative Romano Cassar expressed concern on the vague nature of proposals like “car sharing” to encourage customers to use alternative traffic modes.

The original project, which includes the Decathlon outlet, had been approved in 2018 on condition that the roof of the building below Qormi Road is allocated for soft landscaping.

During the meeting, the developers’ architects submitted a series of computer-generated visuals of the proposed development showing extensive landscaping and a stacking of the development.

But no photomontages conforming to PA guidelines issued in 2015, meaning showing what the development will look like to a person standing at the same point as the image is taken, have been presented.

Deviation from height limitation

According to a case officer report recommending approval, the proposed development will blend with the existing and upcoming commercial context of the area.

The project will still include 2,972m² of soft landscaping throughout the whole building split on three levels; 618m² in Level 1, 956m² in Level 2 and 1,389m² in Level 3. The developer is proposing the installation of 821 PV panels on the roof of the extension.

The new addition will see the mall rising by up to 14m over Triq Hal Qormi, 2.6m more than envisaged in local plan policies.

This deviation is deemed acceptable because, in other areas, the building will be lower than the 11.4m limit and no development is being proposed over an extensive area.

But Board chairman Emmanuel Camilleri still considered the 2.6 meter deviation as substantial and suggested the relocation of services from the roof top to minimise the impact. Similar concerns were expressed by board member and veteran planner Martin Camilleri, who made a number of suggestions on addressing the flaws in the design, including the colour and the cladding material used.

From farmland to shopping mall

The area, which formerly consisted of an agricultural field, was designated for soft landscaping and underlying warehouses in the local plan approved in 2006. In 2013, the area was rezoned again for the development of an elderly home and landscaped public spaces, and then rezoned once again for retail development in 2017. In 2019 the local plan was changed again to allow the new additional development of up to 11.4m above road level.

The permit conditions for the original development, approved in October 2018, specified that the historical farmhouse was to be carefully dismantled, with the building blocks being numbered and stored in an approved store; and then reconstructed, preserving the original plan and layout, using the original materials. But the building was demolished and reconstructed without using the original material except for Grand Master Pinto’s coat of arms, which was salvaged.

The Centreparc mall is owned by Tum Invest and V&C Developments. The project was designed by Med Design Limited, an architectural firm owned by former Labour MP Charles Buhagiar.

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