Plans to build a block of apartments close to the Ġgantija Temples have been put on hold until the Planning Authority is shown evidence that UNESCO does not object to the proposal.

The PA’s Planning Commission was due to decide on the application at Ġgantija Heights, Triq il-Parsott, Xagħra on Friday.

But following a heated, hour-long session in which objectors and the commission chair exchanged heated words, the final decision was put off for six weeks.

The commission asked the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage to present its correspondence with the UNESCO Technical Committee, confirming that it does not object to the project.

Ġgantija is listed among UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. 

Objectors described the decision as a victory, saying that the deferral was only ordered after they insisted on the SCH making the UNESCO paperwork public. 

The proposal (PA 0570/21) seeks to replace an old building and a field that lie around 150 metres away from the UNESCO World Heritage Ġgantija Temples with a three-floor, 27-apartment block.

The application was filed by Emmanuel Farrugia, with Samuel Formosa as the project architect. 

Originally, the developer sought permission for an even larger block. But those plans were scaled down and in August the SCH said that it no longer objected to the plans. 

The PA-assigned case officer is recommending that the application be approved.

Hundreds of objectors have registered themselves with the PA, seeking to have the project blocked due to what they fear will be the irreversible negative impact that it will have on the views from the neolithic temples nearby.

A number of them spoke during Friday's hearing, arguing that cities like Liverpool and Dresden had lost their UNESCO World Heritage status due to careless overdevelopment and that it is the UN agency, not SCH, which should have the final say. 

The SCH says that UNESCO has said it approves of the proposal in principle, but has so far failed to present any documentation to that effect from the UN agency. It must now do so before the project can go ahead at the PA.

In a statement, an FAA spokesperson said that PA Commission chair Stefania Baldacchino initially appeared to be "determined to approve the permit" during Friday's hearing.

However, she had finally conceded that the UNESCO technical committee's report should be produced and deferred the application decision to February 8, 2023. 

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