Adopting a hard-line approach against development would result in a “fossil Malta” and historic buildings being abandoned or destroyed, according to the Superintendent for Cultural Heritage.
“The general trends and policies all favour development,” Anthony Pace told the Times of Malta.
“A lot of people on the island have grasped that spirit, so we have to bridge the rights of the individual with the protection of historic sites.”
Dr Pace was speaking amid a series of accusations of inaction levelled at him over the development of a historic site in Mosta that some believe could contain underground features including a hypogeum.
Dr Pace said the site at Wesgħa tal-Ġganti, earmarked by AX Holdings for a showroom and an apartment block, had been extensively surveyed in 2013 and no archaeological features were found.
As a result, no monitoring of works was deemed necessary.
Silos and parts of a historic rubble wall visible in a video shot by environmental activists as work began this week, Dr Pace added, formed part of a separate, adjacent site and would be preserved in the course of development.
Everyone with a plot of land has become a developer now
Earlier this week, the Democratic Party lashed out at “the blatant disregard for Malta’s environment and heritage” as works began on the Mosta development, for which the Planning Authority issued planning permission despite concerns by archaeological experts that more underground features than had been documented could be present.
The party accused the planning watchdog and the Superintendence of having “repeatedly let down the Maltese people” and “undervaluing our patrimony”.
Dr Pace insisted that, despite the criticism, he was convinced his office had taken the correct approach and position in every case it had assessed.
“I want to put the public’s mind at rest that we take our jobs very seriously,” he said.
“I’m trying to protect something intangible, whereas people want tangible development. Everyone with a plot of land has become a developer now. It’s no joke balancing private rights with trends and issues of national importance.”
The PA said in a statement the Mosta site had “low archaeological value” and was part of a larger area of land (Tal-Qares) that was included in the development zone through the 2006 rationalisation exercise.
“The impact of the proposed planning scheme for the area on potential features of archaeological importance was a primary consideration in the assessment process of the planning control application,” it said.
“The Superintendent for Cultural Heritage carried out extensive archaeological excavations and imposed a number of measures to safeguard the features that are considered of value.
“The approved scheme included areas where no rock cutting or development is to be allowed and where green open spaces are to be kept to protect archaeological features,” it added.
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