Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar has welcomed the Malta Environment and Planning Authority board’s approval of the permits for the Cittadella masterplan and visitors’ centre, dealing with the restoration, upgrading and rehabilitation of Gozo’s unique citadel.

The visitors’ centre/reservoir will form part of a water heritage trail to highlight the importance of the perched acquifer

The FAA said the project’s holistic treatment of the whole area showed that a great deal of thought had gone into the plans, which will partly close the 1950s arch in the bastions and reinstate the original entrance to the citadel, of which many visitors are not even aware.

“The positioning of the visitors’ centre below the bastions also valorises another unknown feature of the fortifications, as the sally-port or hidden exit within the bastions will be used as an access from the visitors’ centre to the upper level of the fortified structure,” it added.

The Cittadella masterplan will provide improved access to the bastions and make better use of some of the buildings within the citadel.

The FAA particularly welcomed the re-use of the enormous old water reservoirs just beneath the citadel’s outer walls, which risked being demolished in the 1990s.

These water reservoirs were never used to store water but to create water pressure before electrical pumps were installed in Gozo. In fact, large traditional water storage wells are located nearby.

The FAA said: “The innovative use of these reservoirs as a non-intrusive visitors’ centre is an excellent example of rehabilitation of an old structure. While being modern in treatment, this conversion does not jar with the surroundings and will greatly increase our appreciation of the Cittadella’s past role, as well as attracting many more tourists to this historic site.”

While the FAA understood that dismantling the flank of the reservoir attached to the bastions was necessary to restore a clear view of the bastion-line, it is grateful that its request to retain the first and last of the arches as a memory of the past structure was being favourably considered.

The visitors’ centre/reservoir will form part of a water heritage trail to highlight the importance of the perched aquifer that lies just beneath the Cittadella, which was the reason why this hill was chosen as an ideal defensive post centuries ago.

The water trail will focus on traditional systems of water conservation in wells and even in a cavern, which will link the heritage theme with the Eco-Gozo sustainability concept. The whole Cittadella project is to be monitored by archaeologists from Mepa’s Heritage Protection Unit and the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage.

This masterplan, which has received input from many sources over a number of years, proves that proper planning that is sensitive to the heritage context, along with extensive consultation with local groups, has resulted in a rehabilitation project which should hopefully meet every sector’s requirements and approval.

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