An application for the renewal of a permit for the construction of villas in a public open space which is also an area of archaeological importance is being opposed by residents Triq George Borg Olivier, Rabat.

The site is on the eastern urban fringe of Rabat and is on the promontory above the Tafal tal-Imdina slopes. It consists partly of terraced fields behind existing buildings and partly a private garden of another existing dwelling.

Addressing a news conference on site this morning, Carmel Cacopardo, the architect representing the residents, said the site had been the subject of a number of applications until a fifth application on half the site permitted residential development in 2004.

Three applications had already been submitted on this site by 2001, which had all been refused by the Development Control Commission. The Appeals Board had also confirmed these decisions when determining the appeals on two of the decisions.

A fourth application was refused in 2004 but a fifth application permitted residential development with the only justification being that the development being proposed was less intense than that of previous applications.

Rabat Mayor Sandro Craus lamented that Rabat had experienced different high-profile cases of planning abuse, including the famous case of Bahrija, to which was added the case of the disco complex on the Rabat-Siggiewi road which has grown disproportionately to become a blot on the Rabat valley landscape.

The site under discussion marked the old Mdina landfront and had access only through the drive of Villa Lutens, a scheduled old mansion.

The mayor called on Mepa to uphold this character and not allow development to ruin this character.

Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar coordinator Astrid Vella echoed the fact that the objectors were to call on MEPA to revoke the 2008 permit becaue the Case Officer Report did not give importance to the presence of archaeology.

Aerial photographs taken for the objectors clearly showed the extent of the excavations and the great archaeological potential of the site.

Ms Vella said that in addition to the Culture Policy and the 2002 Cultural Heritage Act, the authorities now also had the national environment policy with which to protect such sites.

She expressed appreciation for the close monitoring being carried out by the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage and the fact that the Environment Ministry was viewing the case seriously.

She urged the authorities to ensure that Rabat and Malta would not lose yet another cultural heritage site.

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