Plans for new three-storey buildings next to the ruins of the old Siġġiewi parish church have raised concerns over the fate of the protected historic site.

The old church, dedicated to St Nicholas of Bari, was built soon after Siġġiewi was officially recognised as a parish in 1436. It remained the centre of the town until the new church was built in 1693, after which it was abandoned.

The authorities carried out a restoration project in 2007 to preserve the ruins, which have Grade 1 scheduling status, the highest level of protection, meant to safeguard both the site and its setting.

The area’s local plan currently include provisions to protect the site, also by maintaining a pedestrian space to support views of the ruins, a six-metre buffer zone and stepped building heights as well as a requirement for a quarter of the development site to be left as a green area.

However, a zoning application under consideration by the Planning Authority seeks to amend the local plan, allowing for the building of three-storey structures adjacent to the ruins.

Imperative that a suitable green open buffer zone be retained

The proposal includes a wide public passageway cutting through the development site towards the ruins as well as private gardens between the buildings and the church.

The Siġġiewi local council has objected to the plans, saying they would intrude upon the ruins, cutting off the clear line of sight from Triq Lażżru Pisani and did not provide for enough of a green area.

The local parish, together with two Siġġiewi heritage NGOs, called for the PA to ensure that the historic site was not “buried” beneath development.

“The height of the floors in the proposed plan absolutely obstruct and thwart the view of the church and highly contrast with the dignified atmosphere of the church and the functions that would take place in the interior of the church,” the groups said, calling for a more gradual stepping away from the site.

Also weighing in ahead of the close of public consultation yesterday, architect and historian Conrad Thake warned that the development would “seriously compromise” the visual appreciation of the old church.

“It is imperative that a suitable green open buffer zone be retained and that the maximum building height of the surrounding development be capped at not more than two floors,” he said.

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