Protection of Malta’s heritage is only skin deep, says FAA
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Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar said that it “wholeheartedly supports Din l-Art Helwa’s concern at MEPA’s recent processing of an application to demolish three old buildings flanking Naxxar Parish Church.”
“This case is symptomatic of MEPA’s failure to safeguard Malta’s heritage as the MEPA Board has yet again chosen to ignore the Case Officer’s outright refusal of these applications,” FAA said. The Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee declared “The Committee is confirming its previous comments and vehemently insists that it is against this development.”
FAA said that “this development has followed the classic pattern of neglect of old buildings in order to later claim that they are beyond repair and should be demolished. It is precisely to discourage such a stratagem that the Structure Plan decrees “There will be a presumption against the demolition of any building of Architectural or Historical Interest.” And “Within Urban Conservation Areas, the basic objective will be to preserve and enhance all buildings, spaces, townscape, and landscape which are of Architectural or Historical Interest.” FAA said.
The NGO added, “in this case, the applicant is claiming a right to re-develop and commercialise a prominent corner of the Naxxar urban conservation area, on the grounds of on an earlier abusive permit issued in the same area. Abusive permits granted to well-connected developers and architects are used as precedents to continue the destruction of our historic village cores, gems of Maltese vernacular architecture.”
FAA stated, “yet again this development will destroy a precious urban conservation garden to build more apartments. MEPA’s failure to designate such gardens as ‘Protected Green Enclaves’ is noticeable in areas of interest to developers.”
“Looking at the bigger picture, MEPA has recently scheduled a number of architectural sites all over the Maltese islands, however given the long years that no properties were being scheduled, the rate of scheduling still falls far short of what is needed, ” FAA said. “Architectural and historic gems that are increasingly being targeted by developers keen to build their large gardens, are being left unprotected by MEPA.”
FAA asks what is the point of scheduling sites when MEPA refuses to fulfil its legal responsibility to ensure that such sites are maintained? Such as: “In respect of any scheduled property, the Authority shall also have power to require the owner to undertake such works … as may be necessary to ensure that no further deterioration occurs.” Failing this “the Authority may give a further notice to the owner to carry out and complete the works within a specified time, and if the owner is still in default it may itself carry out … the necessary works and recover the cost thereof from the owner of the scheduled property.”
“Similarly, the legislation enacted to allow Government to buy up sites of architectural and historic importance at fair rates, in order to ensure their protection, has never been implemented. Monuments like Villa Guardamangia, the only home of a British monarch outside the UK, are being allowed to fall to pieces in spite of their historic, architectural and touristic potential,” FAA said.
FAA asks whether Government’s commitment to preserving Malta’s architectural heritage is only skin deep, dictated by developers’ interests.”
“MEPA is fiddling while all over the islands Malta’s heritage burns,” FAA added
Photo – by FAA: Villa Drago, Sliema, “one of Malta’s many scheduled buildings being allowed to fall into decay.”