The Malta Independent 15 November 2018, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Environment and heritage - The little old house in Marsascala

Monday, 31 July 2017, 10:34 Last update: about 2 years ago

There is, on the Marsascala sea front, an unassuming old house that looks like a fish out of water among the more modern blocks of flats, takeaways and bars that adorn the street.

It is a simple building of two storeys, with wooden apertures and a metal balcony overlooking the bay, which is crowded with all types of sea vessels. A remnant from the past. While the building is not some architectural gem, it has its own value, being the very last old house on the once pretty street that now only exists in photos taken many decades ago.

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In a few weeks’ time, it will be no more. It will become another victim of Malta’s senseless development spree.

To make matters worse, it will be replaced by a modern, boxlike structure comprising a restaurant and an overlying apartment. The first thought that comes to mind is that the area, already brimming with eateries and bars, certainly does not need another restaurant. Even if it did, there were surely ways to restore the old house and convert the inside to suit the developer’s needs. A certain perched restaurant in Balluta comes to mind.

It is often said that our current planning policies are spelling disaster for our ODZ areas and our traditional townscapes. But there is a human factor at play as well. In this particular case, the case officer gave his go-ahead for the project and the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage also said that the structure is not of any particular significance, is in a state of disarray and raised no objections to its demolition. On the basis of these conclusions, the Planning Authority issued the permit.

The Marsascala Local Council had announced that it was going to appeal the decision, saying it wanted to safeguard the ‘landmark’ building, but changed its mind after an architect it appointed also agreed that the building is “not worth preserving.”

This is the same council, by the way, that has no problem with the land grab at Zonqor Point, and which last week voted down a proposal to propose the site as public domain. It is also the council that is not fighting tooth and nail against proposals to build high rise towers at the Jerma hotel site, and shot down a proposal to ask the government to buy the land and turn it into an open space for families.

We have no idea why all of the abovementioned came to the conclusion that this quaint old house has no value and should be torn down. This is certainly not a sentiment shared by the general public, which has expressed outrage at this latest episode of a seemingly never ending destructions spree.

Surely, the SHC and the case officer could have recommended that the shell of the building be retained and restored, instead of having the entire building demolished.

Once again it seems that this country is at the mercy of developers who are intent on destroying all remaining green areas and pulling down charming old houses to make space for their flats and sky scrapers. The irony is that many of them live in detached country or seaside villas, away from hustle and bustle of construction, the noise and dust generated from demolition works and the uprooting of trees to make space for more concrete. 

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