The newly-appointed executive president of Din l-Art Ħelwa, Petra Bianci, has insisted that her society is not against change.

"Heritage management is about change management, which means adapting and finding uses for restored properties," Dr Bianchi insisted in an interview. "It is never a question of two opposing poles: preserve exactly as is or totally destroy. You need to find ways to conserve, change and continue to use".

She said that DLĦ is now focusing on the use of the properties it has restored and how to integrate them into the economy.

Losing heritage does not only mean losing identity but it is also a loss in terms of tourism, for example, she said.

DLĦ is considering various options, including simple refurbishment for an improved visitors' experience and more commercial uses, including catering and weekend breaks to generate revenue.

Speaking a day after a national rally by environment NGOs only attracted a couple of hundreds, she preferred not to comment on the numbers, blaming the turnout on the inclement weather and, possibly, the broad agenda it tackled.

DLĦ had declined an invitation to participate in the rally as organisers due to the other NGOs' stand against the Valletta entrance project, which it has pronounced itself in favour of.

"We have never emphasised any rifts with any NGOs and, in fact, we work well with several, including BirdLife, Nature Trust and Gaia Foundation. Of course, you cannot agree on every issue and I think it is important to accept that."

DLĦ has never changed its views on having Parliament in Freedom Square, she said. "We were in favour of it from the start from an aesthetic and heritage point of view," she says.

As to the roofless theatre on the old opera house ruins, another sticking point, DLĦ, Dr Bianci said she is convinced that, aesthetically, it will be an interesting space, even though it would not meet all demands, having space and weather limitations.

The proposal to turn the Mediterranean Conference Centre, in Valletta, into a multifunctional theatre "seems like another solution" to have both an outdoor and indoor space, she added.

"The point is that we are open to ideas... We have always stated our views on what we thought was bad and even what we thought was good. Valletta is a good project and we promote it."

She welcomed the launching, last week, of the national environment strategy.

"We need to bring everything together, including tourism and heritage. It is not easy to do and even harder to get everyone to buy into and implement it but the situation is getting more critical and we cannot wait any longer. The damage is already enormous."

One of the biggest and most irreparable mistakes in Dr Bianchi's view is the critical extent of urban sprawl. "The amount of development is not reversible, so the line has to be drawn."

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