The Planning Commission has given permission for a centuries-old imposing scheduled villa in St Julian’s to be converted into a restaurant following the withdrawal of an objection by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage.

The remaining stumbling block regarding a missing updated engineer’s report was also overcome and the project received the final blessing.

Under a 2012 permit, the historic Villa Fieres overlooking Spinola Bay, St Julian’s and beneath the St Julian’s parish parvis, was meant to be restored and converted into a diplomatic residence. However, an application was more recently submitted to convert it into a restaurant.

The application was proposed by Joseph Cortis on behalf of CBC plc. 

The developer was granted permission to carry out renovation and upgrading works on the basis of a change in use of the residential villa into a restaurant. The outdoor areas would be used for tables and chairs.

He was also given a permit to excavate beneath the villa’s garden to create an underground kitchen and two levels of storage, as well as construct a lightweight staircase and panoramic lift at the rear of the villa.

Villa Fieres is a Grade 2 scheduled building.

There have been several applications made over the years, with varied proposals, but none has ever seen the light of day.

Among them has been a high-rise mixed retail and residential development requiring the dismantling and re-construction of the villa as well as an application to turn it into a boutique hotel.

The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and the PA’s Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee had found the application for a restaurant excessive in terms of the proposed excavation and construction, especially their proximity to a scheduled property “which deserves full attention to ensure its total safeguard and its stability”.

The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage did not object to the external panoramic lift but asked for more details and also requested that excavation be reduced.

The objections were, however, withdrawn after fresh plans were submitted and excavation close to the historic property was limited.

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