St Julian’s residents are rallying to protect one of the oldest preserved streetscapes in the town from development plans they say would destroy the area’s intangible heritage.

A development application recently published by the Planning Authority proposes the demolition of a pair of adjacent two-storey houses in the upper part of St Elias Street, to be replaced by a six-storey apartment block.

While the houses themselves are believed to hold little heritage value, the area is characterised by a largely uniform row of two-storey houses, many of which have been restored in recent years.

“This is the core of St Julian’s. It is within the boundaries of the old walled city, which was mentioned in a census from before the time of the Knights,” resident John Vassallo told the Times of Malta. “Compared to what has happened in Sliema and the rest of St Julian’s, it still has a quaint and picturesque quality.”

Dr Vassallo, who is organising opposition to the project, said the proposal would stick out like a sore thumb in the narrow street due to its height and contrasting architectural style.

He called for the application to be rejected on the basis of planning policies limiting the height and protecting the aesthetic context of the area, as well as on the basis of the intangible heritage the streetscape represented.

“There is a value in the streetscape of an old village core,” he said. “This is being challenged by people with no sense of beauty, no sense of continuity and no sense of a cultural way of life.”

Residents, together with heritage groups, are expected to file formal objections before the close of public consultation on April 4.

Earlier this month, Planning Authority board chairman Vince Cassar lamented the loss of Malta’s traditional streetscapes as the regulator voted to reject plans for an apartment block in place of a scheduled 19th-century Sliema townhouse in a well-preserved row on Cathedral Street.

Mr Cassar insisted on that occasion mistakes committed in the past could not continue to be used to justify new damaging developments.

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