A conservation architect has made a heartfelt appeal to authorities to stop allowing greedy developers to continue destroying Malta’s traditional village cores.
Architect Joanna Spiteri Staines is representing objectors to an application to demolish a century-old townhouse in Sannat’s Urban Conservation Area and build a block of 16 apartments and underlying garages instead of it.
“This development, if allowed, is a very dangerous precedent as it could result in destruction of 90 per cent of our Urban Conservation Areas,” she warned.
“Specific policies do not allow the demolishing of properties within Urban Conservation Areas and this project should not even be considered,” she pleaded.
How can you allow such things to continue to happen just for speculation
“How can you allow such things to continue to happen just for speculation, when it is evident that we are losing our most traditional village cores and street-scapes?” she asked members of the Planning Commission.
Urban Conservation Areas are special status areas within towns and villages defined by their special architectural and historic value. Ms Spiteri Staines, who is also a member of NGO Din l-Art Ħelwa, also took issue with the developer’s architect, Saviour Micallef, asking him directly on how he managed to come up with such an ugly design.
“There is no need to demolish the entire building, as this can be developed into a lovely place internally. But it seems that the only scope is to build a new massive block of flats to maximise profits,” she charged.
The architect has been asked to submit photo montages for the proposal.
Mr Micallef rebutted that argument, saying the building was of no significant architectural value.
“It’s the client who decides what to do with his property, not me,” he said, in defence of his colleague’s rebuke.
“I can only suggest, if need be, to retain the whole building. But that’s all I can do. My client decides,” he insisted with the objectors at the meeting.
The application for the development is fronted by Mark Agius, known in Gozo by the name of the supermarkets founded by his mother, Ta’ Dirjanu. Mr Agius is partnered in this project by property magnate Joseph Portelli.
Although the Planning Authority directorate has recommended that the application be refused, the Planning Commission, chaired by Elizabeth Ellul, postponed the decision for another session.
She said that if the developer agreed to retain the facade and address some other design issues, her commission would consider giving its green light to the project.
According to the case officer’s report, the century-old vernacular building which the developers want to demolish appears to be in a generally good state of preservation and also includes a large garden.
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