The Malta Indipendent
10 February 2012
Reference is being made to an article that was published in the Malta Independent on Friday 27th January 2012 under the header ‘The raping of three streets in St.Julian’s’. In his article Mr Robert Arrigo describes MEPA as ‘evil’ and ‘shameful’, after having recently approved the change of use of an existing residential property into a 5 bedroom hostel, in Triq Dun Guzepp Scerri, St Julians.
In his article, Mr Arrigo regrettably omitted the salient facts which led to this decision, namely:
1. The existing 5 bedroom residence in question has been permitted to accommodate a maximium of 10 beds and not 26 beds as Mr Arrigo erroneously stated. It is also worth noting that prior to the granting of this planning permission, this residence was already licensed by the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) to host foreign students.
2. The property in question will not be dropped down and redeveloped in that the approved use is for the property as already existing, save for minor alterations.
3. The possibility of large residences, being turned into a growing statistic of vacant dwellings, is a reality. Other owners of large residences speculated their properties to have them redeveloped as apartments. One of the solutions to address this existing problem is to adopt principles of sustainable progress whereby vigilantly, vacant dwellings in residential areas may be permitted to be converted into guest houses, hostels, and other similar uses which are essentially of a residential nature. While such ‘development’ will reduce the pressure of urban sprawl, these uses if properly regulated and managed from an operational point of view, should not unduly compromise the well being and quality of life of residents living in the area.
While one can argue for and against any planning decision, describing as tantamount to ‘rape’ and ‘evil’ the decision to permit change of use of an existing house into five bedroom hostel that can accommodate at a maximum ten tourists is to say the least far-fetched. One would have expected a more balanced opinion from the Hon. Arrigo given that he is the successful operator of a number of significantly larger hotels in the St. Julian’s area.