What Barbarians Couldn’t Do – We Are Doing Ourselves by Lino DeBono
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Gozo and Gozitans are proud of their two main heritage sites. These are the Ggantija Temples and the Citadel. The Citadel which has been standing and protected for ages, and nobody really knows who built it, just like Mdina in Malta.
Sayings (not confirmed) say that the Citadel outer walls were three times larger than they are now. The myth goes that the first Citadel foundations went as far in their outer perimeters as the Capuchin’s Convent in the outskirts of Victoria.
The Citadel was the capital of Gozo and the rest classified as hamlets. The Rabat area was exactly as surrounded by the Citadel walls and the main entrance was at Main Gate Street which still carries that name. The buildings in this enclosed area were called Rabat.
Victoria as is now, came into being during Queen Victoria’s Coronation when several Gozitan intellectuals petitioned the British Government to include the Rabat outskirts such as Tal-Balliegha – tal-Gelmus area and those of Foremen and St George’s Fief, Ghajn Qatet, tac-Cawla, etc., etc. This request was accepted and thus the creation of the name Victoria and its confinements.
The Citadel, is a jewel and a heritage protected site. Millions were spent for its upkeep through these last 10 years by both administrations as both realise its importance and historical value. A place of so much importance that it’s visited by one and all.
The Citadel, which till 1611 all Gozitans had to be inside as soon as the cannon was fired. This law was in order to have all Gozitans inside the Citadel as protection from marauders. The Citadel housed about 2,600 people. A Jewish quarter was also established at the Citadel.
Whenever the Gozitans were attacked by marauders, pirates or the Turks, people flocked to the Citadel for protection. The walls withstood numerous attacks from one and all. Except for now.
A large empty house in the square of “It-Tokk” applied to be turned into a Boutique Hotel. This was something positive as this house had been closed for several years and was becoming an eyesore and depleted.Gozitans were in favour of this house being turned into a Boutique Hotel as its location was stupendous. Some people say that this house had previously also been a Hotel.
Therefore as such there was general agreement.
It-Tokk previously also enjoyed two Hotels, The Victoria Hotel which now houses the “Roma Shop Complex” and at the side of “Bellusa Bar,” the “Ewropa Hotel.” Both of these have long gone and changed in scope.
So yes, the people do agree that the big empty house in the square should be converted into a Boutique Hotel. But this is as far as this goes.
There appears to be some hanky-panky going on regarding the Planning Authority’s permission to the opening of two windows and a door leading to the Citadel Ditch. Eyebrows were raised and locals and also others started asking impertinent questions to the authorities.
One must also note that when I was in Government and tried to convert the ditch to car parking facilities, this was refused on a heritage basis. The same applied to the then local Mayor Mr Paul Cassar who also had requested the same area as a parking place.
However the Authorities did then accept that the ditch would come under the responsibilities of the Victoria Council. So one expects that authorisation was required and requested from the Victoria local Council.
Work then started and when the excavator went under the foundations of the Ditch walls, it all came tumbling down and that’s what started people asking pertinent questions.Why was a permission granted to the owners to open two windows and a door leading to the Citadel’s ditch?
Does not the law specify that there has to be a space from the windows to another property? Was this at least thought off and observed?
Why was this permission granted let alone even considered before it was issued?
Why and how on earth did the Land Authority after this disaster write to the Mayor of Victoria asking him if the Council had issued their approval?
How is it that the Mayor replied to the Land Authority that the Council was never asked let alone had issued their approval?
If so, how and with what authority did the Planning Authority issue the permit and with whom did they consult?
How is it that the supervisory authorities didn’t really check how the heavy duty excavator was undermining the Citadel walls with the consequence of it coming tumbling down?
This brings me to ask the question “Which Authority Is going to be Held Responsible?” Or is everyone and everybody just going to wash his/her hands of their responsibility?
In my personal view and numerous others this is gross negligence.
Another issue that has cropped up is the permit for the height of the building. First one has to consider that many years ago the Cinema next to this building was granted extra height in its building permits. So the Boutique Hotel will be at the same level as the Cinema. This is an important reality and fact.
Therefore both the owner and the Planning Authorities can justify this height. What’s good for the goose is also good for the gander.
The issue although remains that the Clock Tower at the Citadel, the main purpose of which was to be viewed from the Main Square and everywhere, is now going to be hidden behind the height of this new building.
My questions continue in this regard as well:
Did the Planning Authority take this important issue into consideration? Was anyone consulted? And if so whom?
Who approved this?
Was “Wirt Ghawdex” ever consulted in any way on all these issues or had “Wirt Ghawdex” only been able to complain after becoming made aware that the permit had been issued without even consulting such a important heritage body?
I feel that something here stinks to high heaven. As a Former Member of Parliament, as a Representative in the Former European Parliamentarians Association, and most of all as a Proud Gozitan, I for one condemn those responsible for these heritage atrocities.’
I am lifting my voice in protest as I expect others to follow. Let us keep Gozo as is in its natural beauty. Let us take destiny of these matters into Gozitan hands. Gozitans must not let others, whose God is money, ruin what is beautiful – Historical and rural.
After ruining Malta, the main Island with overbuilding, destroying the precious cultural and beautiful creative architectural buildings, let us Gozitans preserve the sublime beauty that we still enjoy.
Gozitans have and must decide our destiny in these regards. Not for others deciding from a table what should and shouldn’t happen in Gozo.
I just can’t understand how the Land Authorities wrote to the Victoria Mayor asking if he had issued his approval for the windows and door leading to the Citadel Ditch. How about looking into the permit’s file?
How about asking the Authority that issued the permits how come and on what grounds they reached, or had the authority to issue permits for the windows and a door leading into Government (public) property?
How did the authorities take into consideration the aforementioned clock’s viewing by the general public, the same clock which many, many years ago was erected and installed for this sole purpose?
I hope that the answers will not lead me to write again telling the indicated authority to “Go tell it to the Marines.”
Investments yes by all means – destruction of National Heritage definitely No.”
File photographs: Wirt Ghawdex