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An outline of the site that will be taken up by the residential complex. Photo: Google Maps

Joseph Portelli applies to replace Xlendi hotel with 13-floor residence block

Construction mogul’s plans attracted objections from nearby residents and NGOs

Gozitan construction mogul Joseph Portelli has abandoned plans to rebuild the Xlendi Hotel but instead applied to develop a 13-floor residential complex with 46 units, a shop, and underlying garages and car spaces overlooking the scenic bay.

The plans have attracted a considerable number of objections from nearby residents who are fearing for their safety as well as environment NGOs who are pleading with the Planning Authority to stop the “piecemeal destruction of Xlendi”.

Instead, the latest application ditches the touristic aspect of the development and proposes a seafront residential complex with a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroomed apartments. Some of the units will have a jacuzzi on their terraces which the plans make it a point to point out will have “non-slip tiles”.

PA’s target screening process date by July 5.

The plans for the project on Triq San Xmun and Triq il-Puniċi in Xlendi in Munxar were prepared by architect Alexander Bigeni.

In its 2020 application to redevelop the hotel, Excel Investment had said that the demolition was the first phase of the project.

The application had drawn concerns from dozens of objectors, but the PA had given its green light since it was considered as an application to demolish a building that was not worthy of preservation.

Excel’s original application for phase 2 proposed the development of an 88-room, four-star hotel over 14 floors.

These plans had attracted hundreds of objections, only for the company to withdraw the plans and go back to the drawing board. The developer came back with a proposal to build a residential complex with 51 apartments and two shops, but this application was mysteriously withdrawn before it was even considered by the PA.

Instead, a fresh application was submitted in March proposing one shop instead of two and five fewer apartments. The PA’s target date is to complete the screening process by July 5.

‘Obscenity’ – Arnold Cassola

Independent MEP candidate Arnold Cassola tersely described the plans as an “obscenity” (moqżiżata) by Portelli.

The Munxar council did not object to the application but simply asked to be kept informed throughout the process.

Gozitan NGOs Għawdix, Wirt Għawdex and Din l-Art Ħelwa all objected to the proposal, insisting that it breached planning policies. They said the development will severely disrupt the surrounding area, residents’ quality of life, natural environments, and the touristic appeal of Xlendi.

They said the proposed development ran counter to the Gozo and Comino Local Plan in at least four ways, particularly concerning the height which was not in line with the height limitations. The local plan states that the impact of any development should “be contained so that the scenic qualities and the tourist experience of the area are not compromised”.

They also pointed out that the Gozo and Comino Local Plan considers Xlendi valley as “one of the more important valley systems on Gozo” and scheduled as a Level 1 area of ecological importance and a site of scientific importance given its ecological, geological, geomorphological and scientific properties.

Approval of this development would signify a deliberate intention to continue ruining Xlendi,” the Wirt Għawdex committee added in its objection.

News source: Times of Malta