A planning application in Pembroke seeks to turn an area presently occupied by three terraced houses into a large block of 16 apartments, two penthouses and three office units.
The site is directly abutting Triq il-Mediterran, just a stone’s throw away from the locality’s garigue countryside.
The application, (PA/01169/21) has been made by De Domenico Developments and architect Elena Borg Costanzi, who are also seeking to excavate the site in order to construct garages.
The plots, located on Triq il-Fortizza and at a corner with Triq il-Mediterran, will see a five-floor development rising in a largely residential area characterised mostly by much lower terraced houses.
Residents in the surrounding area told Times of Malta that the proposed development would effectively cast them into shadow, with the plans for the development proposing building up what are currently backyards, eliminating a barrier between the homes.
“Not only will this completely eliminate our ability to enjoy the sunshine but I will have 15 to 20 windows looking down right into my back garden,” Antoine Galea, who is opposing the development, said.
“The intensity and aggression of this development is, frankly, too much and cause for great concern.
“It will utterly destroy Pembroke’s character.”
Galea added that the increase of residential units and proposed offices would also exacerbate parking problems in the area.
He also said that the proposed excavation was a cause of anxiety for him as he worries about the integrity of his own home and his family’s safety while works are being carried out.
“Of course, I worry about the danger. They’re going to dig a two-storey basement underneath my garden,” he said, with a note of concern in his voice. We all know what happened in Santa Venera. The risk is always there.”
It’s a bit disrespectful to come and wave money in my face when I’ve made it clear that I just want to enjoy my property
The fact that the PA’s case officer recommended the project be granted permission is a source of great disappointment for Galea.
“It gives the impression that the PA does not listen to serious objections and that we are ignored,” he said.
“This case will set a precedent. There are already applications for office space just a corner away. If this passes as it is, we can say goodbye to Pembroke as we know it.”
Jonathan Vella, another resident also impacted by the development, said that the proposal would “plunge them into darkness”.
“I will be facing a five-storey wall towering over me. I might as well throw away all my plants and dig up my garden because we will be robbed of the sunlight,” Vella said.
He said that while the developer had reached out and offered to buy their property, he was not interested in a payout but in peace of mind.
“I have lived here for 30 years. I have my own space, my garage, my roof. I am happy here; I like my quality of life,” he said.
“It’s a bit disrespectful to come and wave money in my face when I’ve made it clear that I just want to enjoy my property. It’s not enough that this project will devalue my property, do you have to build right on top of me, take my little green corner and cast me in a pit of darkness as well?”
The Pembroke council has objected to the development on grounds that the proposed building is disproportionate to its surroundings and that proposed offices spaces should not be accepted in a residential area.
In its submissions, the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage noted that the proposed development is located within the vistas of the Grade 1 scheduled Fort Pembroke and said that policy dictated that development that would “impair the setting” of a Grade 1 scheduled property should not be permitted”.
The SCH suggested that the proposal decrease the height of the development to avoid the creation of high, blank party walls and ultra-modern design.
“The Superintendence notes that this application proposes drastic intensification of development within this historic military setting and will, therefore, be at odds with its surroundings,” it pointed out.
“With regard to the proposed increase in height, this office is aware that this is subject to PA policies for the area. Nevertheless, the Superintendence notes the proposed height increase will condition development along the street, with a consequent impact on the streetscape.”
The PA’s case officer report recommended the project be granted permission. However, lawyer Claire Bonello filed a representation on behalf of resident objectors claiming that the case report was misleading and contained “wilful omissions”.
Bonello said that the case officer had dismissed the rights of objectors and did not refer to legitimate planning concerns outlined in their objections, while also failing to make reference to all the applicable plans and policies related to the proposal.
In order to justify a detrimental height increase to the project, the report had relied on “commitments” outlined in a document which is not publicly available as well as disregarding several provisions of SPED and DC2015 planning policies.
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