The Kalkara parish priest had requested the uprooting of trees and shrubs on church grounds, the Archdiocese of Malta said, a week after the cleric first denied having any information on the matter.
Kalkara residents woke up to find a number of trees and a small garden on the St Joseph church grounds to be completely destroyed and removed last month. The garden included shrubs, trees, a pond and a statue, which have all been removed.
When first contacted, the parish priest, Fr Brian Gialanzè said he had no information of when the trees were removed and if they will be replaced.
He said the trees were removed as part of a project conducted by Infrastructure Malta, yet, the entity later denied being involved in any works on the church grounds.
The Archbishop’s Curia, Infrastructure Malta and the local council all claimed to have not known who ordered the removal of the trees and garden.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, one Kalkara resident said he watched as over 20 trees were chopped down and uprooted.
"We never saw any permits in the area".- Resident
However a spokesperson for the Curia said one mature ficus tree – an invasive species which was causing structural damage to the pavement – was removed along with two other trees and various shrubs.
Residents said some of the mature trees stood over three storeys high. They said the area was a popular site for older people to sit in the shade of the trees and also was a home for stray cats.
“I would believe one would need a permit to remove such trees, yet we never saw any permits in the area,” one said.
A Planning Authority (PA) spokesperson confirmed with Times of Malta that no recent planning applications were filed on site.
The Curia first said it had no information on the removal of any trees or shrubs but after looking into the matter it later established who requested the removal of the trees and why.
A spokesperson said the archdiocese established that works on the parish church parvis were carried out to facilitate access for those with mobility issues. The works were carried out by Infrastructure Malta following a request by the parish priest to provide parishioners with such access.
The curia spokesperson also explained that the trees removed were not protected and that the larger ones were also causing “structural damage” to the pavement.
It said there had been a misunderstanding when the questions were initially put to the priest about the removal of the trees because the works had taken place three months ago.