The culture watchdog has reiterated its objection to a fresh attempt to build a cluster of 11 terraced houses, each with its own swimming pool, over a sensitive archaeological site where cart ruts are located in Mtarfa.

The new plans now propose building around and over the cart ruts, closing them off with glass for them to be enjoyed by passers-by.

Sources said the project is already being advertised by real estate agents. Each terraced house, with an underlying two-car garage, is being sold for €575,000, promising unobstructed country views from its rooftop, with pool and space for an outdoor kitchen.   

However, despite the new plans, the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage is insisting that the cart ruts in Mtarfa not only merit protection but also full scheduling.

It says the proposed excavation to make way for an underground complex of garages is far too close to the historic rock formations, putting them in imminent danger.

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

The two-floor project being pushed by applicant Ray Camilleri, is on a site that abuts Triq Joseph S. Calleja, Triq ir-Razzett l-Aħmar, Triq Mikiel Fsadni and Triq Tal-Palma.

It 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.

An appeals’ board annulled the PA’s decision to refuse permission and sent the file back to the planning watchdog to consider the application again, this time in light of an archaeological evaluation undertaken by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage confirming the presence of historic cart ruts.

The evaluation found “archaeological features of high importance”.

“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 40 metres away from the proposed development, and which are safeguarded,” it said.

In its report submitted to the Planning Authority, the superintendence said it “objected strongly” to the development as proposed and expressed “grave reservations that any development should be considered on a site of such evident and high archaeological value”.

It said the identified cart ruts form part of an extensive and significant complex and should, therefore, benefit from the same level of protection.

“The superintendence objects to this development application which should be refused,” it said.

The culture watchdog noted that despite the fresh plans, the project was still going to involve intensive development over a very extensive site in an area of considerable archaeological sensitivity and near recorded archaeological remains.

The project was still going to include extensive rock cutting, it added.

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