Historic core of Victoria under threat from development – Wirt Ghawdex
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The “uncontrolled spree of development” in the historic centre of Victoria in Gozo which is “rapidly changing the face and characteristics of the core of the old part of the town,” has been highlighted in a letter to the Planning Authority and the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, by Gozo NGO Wirt Ghawdex.
Expressing its “grave concern,” the NGO said that “while noting positively that there is a sustained move by individuals to re-use old and derelict buildings in the core of Victoria, Wirt Ghawdex feels that either permissions are being given freely for individuals to dismantle old buildings and build new ones or else the conditions imposed by the Planning Authority are being abusively flouted.”
Wirt Ghawdex went on to say that it is never against development so long as it is carried out in a controlled manner and in total respect towards the area where development is taking place.
The NGO noted that there are “scores of pending development applications with at least 3 applications for the demolition of old buildings in the core of Victoria.”
“These if granted,” Wirt Ghawdex added, “would continue to destroy the original fabric of the old town of Gozo and in a few years it would no longer have anything ‘historic’ but new three storey buildings lining narrow and winding streets.”
Wirt Ghawdex said that the letter was also sent to the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, “whose sacrosanct duty is to safeguard our heritage above all other interests.”
The NGO pointed out that, “up to some years ago, applications for development of properties in village cores were treated with maximum reserve something which seems to be missing when considering applications nowadays.”
Wirt Ghawdex argued that “not enough monitoring is done once the application is approved and work is started. Monitoring during the whole development process by the Planning Authority and the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, needs to be much stricter in locations such as old Victoria, even when the application indicates only minor alterations/modifactions.”
This is required since, “unfortunately, these ‘minor’ works sometimes morph into much more intensive works or even demolition of the building without obtaining permission from the authorities,” said Wirt Ghawdex.
It also reminded the Planning Authority and the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage of “their obligations to safeguard our heritage which took thousands of years to be formed but which would quickly disappear under the uncontrolled manoeuvres of bulldozers and jackhammers.”
Wirt Ghawdex concluded by saying that “turning a blind eye to such uncontrolled development would make the authorities concerned partners in the destruction of our dear heritage.”