Delays by the authorities to transfer the guardianship of Il-Qolla l-Bajda Battery, in Qbajjar to Din l-Art Ħelwa is leading to its deterioration.

Sources close to the eNGO said the government had promised to hand over the national heritage building but the process is taking so long that the much-needed intervention may come too late in the day and the building would have gone by then.

Din l-Art Ħelwa has already secured permits and funding for the project. However, the funding may be lost if the government’s bureaucratic process continues to delay the restoration project, sources close to Din l-Art Ħelwa Gozo said.

The culture ministry, headed by Owen Bonnici, could not explain the delays when contacted. A ministry spokesperson would only tell Times of Malta: “Every request for the issuance of a guardianship deed needs to follow a standardised procedure and each request is currently being processed according to this procedure.”

The Qolla l-Bajda Battery is one of four sites for which the eNGO already secured funding but which have not yet been passed on to it due to delays in the guardianship deed.

In March, the NGO said there were many historic sites that were deteriorating through neglect and abandon because of delays in granting their guardianships to NGOs.

Din l-Art Ħelwa has, for some time, been seeking guardianship of the medieval chapel of San Ċir, the Cavalerizza and Marfa Palace, in Mellieħa, as well as Qbajjar Battery, in Marsalforn. It has already carried out the required studies, acquired the necessary permits and found funds for restoration.

The unique 18th-century fortification from the Knights’ era, believed to have been built in 1715, was given on emphyteusis to a Gozitan businessman in the late 1970s, who turned it into a club. Illegal structural changes were made inside the fortification to adapt it to the clubbing scene until 1999 when the Planning Authority issued an enforcement order on the illegal work.

Although the lease ended in 2003, the tenants refused to let go of it, despite an eviction order issued by the Lands Department. Eventually, legal proceedings were instituted but the case never saw the light of day.

The battery is being advertised as the venue of a large party that is also being promoted overseas. The Liquid Spirit Boutique Festival is due to be held between September 14 and 18.

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