Commercial interests “invade” Cittadella Ditch with plans for boutique hotel
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Wirt Ghawdex, in a statement this afternoon, has argued “commercial interests are encroaching on the newly Cittadella Ditch, in plans to convert a historic town house into a boutique hotel.”
It said that the much vaunted project for the restoration and rehabilitation of the Cittadella co-financed by the EU, “has suffered a serious infringement as commercial interests continued to invade the newly restored ditch.”
The Planning Authority has recently approved Application PA 04553/17 which will see an eighteenth century house of character in It-Tokk – the very core of Rabat Gozo, converted into a boutique hotel.
Wirt Ghawdex said that it does not object to the rehabilitation of an unused and derelict house, but it cannot close its eyes to hat it describes as the, “flagrant abuse by the authorities concerned in granting permission for alterations which affect other important monuments, in this case the very Cittadella.”
The Planning Authority, as part of this permit, has approved the opening of a door and two windows on the back wall of the property which abuts the Cittadella Ditch.The NGO added that it has also approved the construction of additional storeys which will obliterate once and for all the view of the historic clock tower from It-Tokk – Gozo’s main square.
Wirt Ghawdex pointed out that should this new doorway onto the terrace eventually lead to the set-up of tables and chairs for the guests at the hotel, it would mean an obstruction on the ramparts, which is today a popular walk around the Cittadella.
This would also lead to excessive wear and tear on the parts of the original walls that were carefully preserved during the restoration, Wirt Ghawdex stated.
The NGO continued by saying that, “another important negative impact resulting from this permit is that it will now be pointless to secure the ditch by closing the gates at night since security can be breached through the hotel aperture by anyone at the hotel at any time.”
“What is really hard to understand,” said the NGO, “is the fact that, initially, the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, which is the national watchdog for the protection of our heritage, had aired its concerns about this development and recommended refusal.”
“It had stated that it will greatly impact the historic scheduled monument of Cittadella since the development will take place in an Urban Conservation Area (UCA), will impact on a potential UNESCO World Heritage Site and lies within an area of High Landscape Value of Cittadella.”
Wirt Ghawdex added that, “then barely eight days later it retracts all its objections with a short paragraph stating that the proposed development `does not indicate any evident threat to the Cultural Heritage and therefore the Superintendence finds no Cultural Heritage concern regarding the proposed development.’ This is totally incomprehensible since none of the original concerns were addressed and still exist.”
Wirt Ghawdex appealed to the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and the Planning Authority to “honour their Constitutional duty and live up to the public’s expectations and stop these flagrant abuses and systematic rape of our heritage. Precedence must stop being used as an excuse to allow further detrimental permits.”
“We therefore strongly appeal to the two authorities to revisit this permit and the conditions under which it has been approved.”
Photographs: Whirt Ghawdex