The context and visual integrity of scheduled buildings and monuments will be taken into greater account when assessing development proposals as the Planning Authority has issued clearer guidelines on identifying, interpreting, and treating the setting/context of scheduled buildings when deciding applications. 

Planning Minister Aaron Farrugia said that greater vigilance would be exercised when deciding applications in close proximity to scheduled buildings and monuments and that the revised guidelines sought to “safeguard the context and setting of sites that carry heritage value”. 

Intelligent planning required the preservation and protection of scheduled buildings and monuments, the Minister said while visiting Villa Frere, which was recently scheduled at Grade 1, the highest level of planning protection a site can receive. 

“This is the reason we are launching these clear guidelines for workers, the board, commissions, and case officers to refer to when making decisions. These sites very often have historic value. This is a heritage passed on from our forefathers and it is our duty to pass it on to upcoming generations. Intelligent planning is planning which is forward-looking,” Farrugia said. 

When assessing applications planners must now make detailed assessments of the impact a proposed development could have on protected buildings and identify mitigation measures with the support and approval of the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage (SCH). 

Following this process, applicants must also provide the Planning Directorate with a complete photographic inventory as well as a character appraisal of the context. 

Greater emphasis will also be placed on visual impact of proposed developments on scheduled buildings, requiring photomontages from strategic points of view. 

Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia and Perit Edward Said at the Villa Frere gardens. Photo: DOIEnvironment Minister Aaron Farrugia and Perit Edward Said at the Villa Frere gardens. Photo: DOI

The SCH will now also hold the right to request that submitted drawings include detailed streetscapes across all corners of the proposal. 

“The proposed architectural design should not only respect the context but should also aim to blend in with the surroundings,” the guidelines hold. 

Assessment of proposals prior to validation will be carried out by the Heritage Planning Unit and will determine whether criteria have been satisfied to evaluate the applications adequately. 

“Each scheduled building is located within a spatial context with which it relates to in different aspects. The setting is, therefore, an essential part of the building and how it is experienced,” PA executive council chair Martin Saliba said. 

“For this reason, the spatial context deserves specific attention. These procedural guidelines spell out better how we intend not to compromise our built cultural heritage.”

The NGO Friends of Villa Frere recently spearheaded the battle against an application for a 10-story hotel at the 400-year-old Giardino Zamittello on the Pieta sea-front, the scale and scope of which, they argued, would obscure views of Villa Frere and neighboring properties as well as irreversibly change the context of the Qrejten area of Pieta. 

The PA rejected the application and board members expressed concern at overdevelopment in the area citing preserving the context of heritage sites in their refusal. 

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