First Ghaxaq, now an old Balzan garden – Readers Letter
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“My family has been in and out of MEPA for the past ten years battling repeated applications to develop a large old protected garden at Three Churches Street, the oldest part of Balzan.
The garden formed part of the ‘Casa del Gioco,’ a grand old mansion that dates back to the time of the knights and is full of citrus trees, olive trees, pomegranates and vines, most of which are protected being over 50 years old. The garden also contains a protected wartime shelter which leads to the ‘Gambling House.’ today the house of the Balzan Mayor. The entrance to this wonderful garden is through a beautifully arched ‘remissa’ in a narrow alley. In the olden days this was used for a horse and carriage which could just pass through the narrow entrance. Every time his permit was refused, the developer applied again until finally his application was approved by the MEPA Appeal Tribunal. However the successful application read ‘one dwelling and one swimming pool’ with no mention of the inevitable widening of the public alley access, not to mention the fact that strangely enough, this monstrous ‘single’ dwelling has several garages.
Above the ‘remissa’ lies our bedroom, therefore our bedroom is going to be perched over a traffic tunnel. This is ridiculous, given that the wider public lane facing this ‘remissa’ has been closed to cars by bollards.
Our family objected to all attempts to destroy this historic garden, spending energy and funds to protect what is supposed to be protected by MEPA, designated as a Green Enclave by the Central Malta Local Plan, as an essential green lung for the whole area.
We consulted experts who wrote about the trees and the history of this wonderful garden which was visited by the MEPA Heritage Advisory Committee, the Superintendence, consultants in environment and agriculture, Case Officers, MEPA Planning Directorates, all saying “no” to development.
We wrote to the mayor of Balzan. We did not even receive an acknowledgment.
Most recently we wrote to the Prime Minister, to Dr. Mario Demarco, Mr. Austin Walker, Ms. Petra Bianchi, Mr. Roderick Galdes and again to the Superintendence in order to ensure that this garden is not destroyed like so many others in the Three Villages. By informing all those responsible we tried to show them how the last application was granted when there was fraud due to incomplete information being submitted by the applicant, as well as the claim that the access alley is private when in fact it is public.
In ten years my family has seen a lot of outrageous things happening in front of our eyes. Many of you readers, know how to play a game of chess. Unbelievably enough, this is what we have had to go through to try to get MEPA to do the right thing.
Since this letter was written a large, protected olive tree and citrus trees have all been electrically sawn by the developers in spite of several reports to the authorities.”
Ms Dorothy Bonello