A plan to turn one of the oldest buildings in Sliema into a casinò has infuriated residents who are determined to stop the proposed project.

Residents and the local council are adamant that Villino Zammit, a scheduled building in High Street, should remain untouched.

Application 6289/03 proposes a change of use from residence to a casinò with catering, office space, the construction of an additional floor and the provision of an underground car park.

A spokesman for the Malta Environment and Planning Authority said the application was only submitted last month and was being dealt with by a case officer. But one resident said the proposal should not even be up for discussion. "What do they want to do, turn the rest of locality into the Sliema front," he asked.

Another resident has already collected over 100 signatures in a petition against the proposal. A letter of protest has also been sent to Mepa and to Environment Minister George Pullicino. The resident, who preferred to remain unnamed, said people in the vicinity were shocked and angry at the proposal. "Why ruin one of the most beautiful buildings in what is ultimately a residential area," she asked.

Mayor Albert Bonello Dupuis said the local council was four square against the proposal.

He said that High Street was one of the oldest streets in Sliema and it would be unheard of to create a commercial centre, even if the Capua St James Hospital and the Victoria Hotel were in the vicinity.

"We are desperate for parking, why create more problems? We have enough construction in Sliema, why cause more," Mr Bonello Dupuis asked.

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