Cart ruts found on a site in Mtarfa earmarked for a cluster of 11 terraced houses, each with their own swimming pool, not only merit protection but also full scheduling, the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage has insisted.

In its report following an archaeological evaluation, the superintendence demanded the outright refusal of the project application, which also includes an underlying garage complex.

The strong position adopted by the superintendence was welcomed by objectors, including the residents, who insisted that the Planning Authority must now act to save the cart ruts from any development, which would ruin them for good.

Cart ruts are a complex network of tracks gouged in the rock, some of which have perplexed historians about their origin.

The project on a site that abuts Triq Joseph S. Calleja, Triq ir-Razzett l-Aħmar, Triq Mikiel Fsadni and Triq Tal-Palma, had already received the thumbs-down in October 2018, mainly because the development was being proposed on an archaeologically-sensitive area for which clearance from the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage had not been obtained.

Site of evident and high archaeological value

The appeals’ board annulled the Planning Authority’s decision to refuse permission and sent the file back to the planning watchdog to consider the application again, this time in light of the new report indicating the presence of historic cart ruts.

The archaeological evaluation was undertaken by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage as part of the new process before the Planning Authority.

The project, being pushed by applicant Ray Camilleri, is covered by PA9316/17 and was to be spread over two floors.

The evaluation found “archae­o­logical features of high importance”. The process involved the removal of soil down to rock surface within the entire site to determine whether there were any archaeological remains.

“The cart ruts discovered on site merit not only preservation but also scheduling as they form part of a network of cart ruts which are located less than 40m away from the proposed development, and which are safeguarded,” it said.

In its report submitted to the Planning Authority, the superintendence said: “[It] objects strongly to the development as proposed and here expresses grave reservations that any development should be considered on a site of such evident and high archaeological value.

“The superintendence again notes that the cart ruts identified on this site form part of an extensive and significant complex which lie less than 40 metres from the development site and should therefore benefit from the same level of protection. The superintendence objects to this development application which should be refused.”

It noted that despite submitting fresh plans, the project was still going to involve intensive development over a very extensive site in an area of considerable archaeological sensitivity and in the vicinity of recorded archaeological remains and that the project was still going to include extensive rock cutting.

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