The Malta Environment and Planning Authority has revoked a permit it had granted for a block of apartments which would have visually competed with the iconic Lija Belvedere Tower.

In 2008, the Development Control Commission had approved plans to erect a three-storey apartment block with a semi-basement and a penthouse in Transfiguration Avenue, where the tower, built in 1857, had pride of place.

In so doing, the DCC was ignoring a petition signed by about 140 Lija residents against the development, as well as the advice given to the authority by the Culture Heritage Advisory Committee, which had said the development would “seriously jeopardise” the scheduled tower’s context.

After listening to residents some months later, the planning authority in 2008 decided it would “safeguard the visual integrity of the Lija Belvedere Tower and its surroundings”, and scheduled the buffer zone around the tower, meaning no buildings could exceed two floors in the area.

In evaluating the appeal, lawyer Ramon Rossignaud and architects Chris Falzon and Jevon Vella last week noted that even though local plans were detailed, “one cannot expect them to take into consideration all the particular issues resulting from every street, square, building, view, archaeological site et cetera in every locality”.

Considering this, and the recent scheduling of the area, the appeals’ tribunal decided to uphold the appeal and revoke the permit.

The tribunal also suggested that local entities could develop specific plans for “important streets or neighbourhoods” in their locality, which even though “possible” in the Maltese system, no one had set out to do yet.

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