The Court of Appeal has revoked the permit for a 5-star hotel to be built instead of the Tattingers discotheque in Rabat on the outskirts of Mdina, saying that it was not in line with the Local Plan for the locality.

The former discotheque was going to be demolished and replaced by a 5-storey hotel, despite strong objections from NGOs, residents and the Mdina Council. The Environment Resources Authority and the Superintendence of Culture Heritage had also expressed concerns when the application was being discussed – even though the developers had reduced the number of rooms from 110 to 81.

There were objections regarding the visual impact on Mdina, while Din l-Art Ħelwa had argued through architect Tara Cassar that the Tattingers had a 60 to 70 square metre basement, while the hotel would have required the excavation of some 1,000 square metres.

Nevertheless, the Planning Authority had approved the permit in 2021, saying that archaeological and geological studies would have to be carried out before any excavation works on site.

The case was referred to the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, which had agreed that the permit should be revoked and sent back to the Planning Authority since the application should not have been issued before the studies were carried out ­– rather than being made conditional on their outcome.

However, Din l-Art Ħelwa, the Archaelogical Society of Malta and Moviment Graffitti were not appeased by this decision and went to the Court of Appeal, arguing that the area’s Local Plan allowed extensions to operating hotels under certain conditions, new hotels were not envisaged.

The Court of Appeal has now agreed that since the Local Plan did not allow new hotels, the law must be upheld and the permit was revoked.

Din l-Art Ħelwa welcomed the important decision, saying that implications went well beyond the development of Tattingers, as the Court of Appeal has recognised the over-riding importance of the Local Plans, which could now be used as a strong argument for several other cases.

DLĦ president Alex Torpiano said: “The amount of work that is being done by the sub-committee – the Heritage and Environmental Protection team (HEP) is phenomenal and this victory – on a point of principle – is most encouraging as it shows that the fight is well worth it. This important ruling has wide implications on a number of other applications already in the pipeline and will definitely serve as a deterrent for those still being considered.

“In spite of the sterling work done on a pro-bono basis by all our dedicated volunteers, these fights are costly and would not be possible without your ongoing memberships and donations. We urge you to visit our website to join up if you have not already done so.”

2022 continued to be another record-breaking year for DLĦ’s Heritage and Environmental Protection team, which filed over 1,500 objections to individual planning applications, as well as 13 new appeals in front of the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal. The NGO also took a number of cases – as in the case of the Tattingers development – to the Court of Appeal.