The Sliema local council and heritage groups are calling for the gardens of Villino Zammit to be given scheduling protection, as the Planning Authority considers an application to convert the historic villa into a boutique hotel.
In a letter to the PA, the council, together with the Sliema Heritage Society and Din L-Art Ħelwa, argue that the front and back gardens form an integral part of the architectural value of the imposing High Street building.
Villino Zammit dates to the late 19th century and was designed by acclaimed architect Francesco Zammit. The building itself was given Grade II scheduling status in 1995, but the front and back gardens were excluded.
“The gardens, which are still in excellent condition, believed to be just as Zammit designed them, are part and parcel of the villa itself, and without them the latter will be of a greatly degraded value. Therefore the scheduling should ensure that they are not in any way compromised,” the groups said.
Without the gardens the villa will be greatly degraded in value. Scheduling should ensure they are not at all compromised
They also called for the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) to carry out a tree survey to identify any mature species, as well as the protection of an extensive rubble boundary wall on St Nicholas Street to be given special protection.
The appeal comes ahead of a public hearing on September 13 in which the PA is expected to decide on an application to convert the villa into a boutique hotel, adding four storeys to the building and making major alterations to both gardens.
The council and heritage groups say the proposed alterations will result in “effectively turning the front [garden] into a car port and the back one diminished into a large yard”, as well as seeing the complete demolition of the St Nicholas Street rubble wall.
The application has been recommended for refusal by the PA case officer, who concluded that the extra storeys would breach the limitations of the Urban Conservation Area in which the building is located, alongside other policy concerns.
Villino Zammit (originally called Ratnapoora) was built in the late 19th century by philanthropist Alfonso Maria Galea and his brother-in-law Agostino Borg Cardona, together with the neighbouring Betharram (now Fatima House). It was built on the gardens of the long-ago-demolished Hunter’s Palace, which belonged to both men.
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