The Sliema Residents Association is calling for the town's local plan to be modified, as it continues to crusade to protect and rehabilitate the 140-year old Villa Bonici and its gardens.

The association recently presented a report to MPs elected in the 10th district, which includes Sliema, as they walked into Parliament.

The report proposes changes to the North Habour Local Plan to limit the construction height in the area to a maximum five storeys.

"This area is the only part of the Sliema shoreline that has not yet become high-rise and we are proposing that it should be conserved as a low-rise area," reads the document.

This, it continues, would preserve Villa Bonici's large garden as a green lung and allow the ventilation of the town's centre, among others.

The association also proposed scheduling parts of the villa's architecture, including its arched entrance from St Agatha Street. The villa has another façade on Manwel Dimech Street.

It added that it had grave doubts as to why the Malta Environment and Planning Authority had changed the villa's previous status as an urban conservation area to an unlimited-height one.

This, it said, was done between 2000 and 2006 without any consultation when preparing the last plan.

The association said its proposals were intended to preserve the identity of the villa, its farmhouse and terraced gardens. The concept was to create an open space for the fulfilment and enjoyment of the public and to rehabilitate the existing building to provide much-needed public facilities including a home for the elderly and off-street parking.

The proposal to convert Villa Bonici into a home for the elderly was also recently made during a meeting with Environment Parliamentary Secretary Mario de Marco, who, however, pointed out that the fact the villa was private property had to be respected.

The report was also accompanied by a detailed architectural and historical analysis of the villa, which is the only remaining large undeveloped space since Tignè was sold for development.

It was built in 1870 by the Sixth Marquis of San Vincenzo Ferreri and the Fifth Baron of Qlejgħa, Emmanuele Testaferrata Bonici Għaxaq, at a time when Sliema was changing from a small fishing village into a fashionable seaside resort.


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