The Malta Independent 26 May 2019, Sunday

Controversial Mosta development: PA says site has ‘low archaeological value’

Tuesday, 31 October 2017, 14:25 Last update: about 3 years ago

Controversial Mosta development: PA says site has ‘low archaeological value’

 

A site in Mosta which is the subject of controversial development has “low archaeological value,” the Planning Authority said yesterday.

The site in question is, known as Tal-Qares, contains archaeological remains such as megaliths and cart ruts, with some experts even believing that the site could possibly also be home to Malta’s third hypogeum.

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Controversy erupted some days ago when excavation works by AX Holdings, which owns the site, commenced.

The AX Holdings project will see the area turned into a showroom, five maisonettes, seven apartments, four penthouses and 18 garages across four storeys.

The site was included in the development zone in the infamous 2006 rationalisation exercise.

Partit Demokratiku this week warned that the area was being blasted by heavy machinery without any supervision by the authorities.

Reacting to various news reports, the PA yesterday said studies had shown that the area has low archaeological value. “The development permission issued by the Planning Commission had been granted after the Planning Directorate, had consulted with the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage (SCH) amongst other relevant consultees. The SCH recommended approval of the development on the basis that a comprehensive archaeological investigation had been carried out in 2013 during the processing of the Planning Control application (PC11/13) for the area. This application had established the planning parameters for the area in line with established legal procedures,” the PA said.

The authoritye said the permit laid out that the site must be monitored by an SCH-approved archaeologist during excavation works, adding that this condition was being observed by the applicant. “The Authority will continue to monitor that works are in accordance with the approved permit.”

This site forms part of a larger area of land (Tal-Qares) which back in 2006 was identified for inclusion in the Development Zone through the Rationalisation Exercise. The land was to be included subject that a comprehensive archaeological study is carried out to determine suitability or otherwise for inclusion, the PA said.

“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. The SCH 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 be allowed and where green open spaces are to be kept to protect archaeological features.”

Anthropologist Michael Deguara yesterday said the site includes vine trenches, what appear to be cisterns or silos, and a large depression cut in the rock which may still warrant further excavation. “This of course, in addition to what we knew already about megaliths and signs of human activity in the area going back well into prehistory.”

He warned that some of these features, including some vine trenches, have already been destroyed.

Reacting to the developers’ argument that not the entire area shown in news photos will be developed, Deguara warned that the context of the whole landscape will be irreversibly changed.

“St Andrew's chapel, once a landmark amidst the fields, is now dwarfed by large buildings; the surrounding fields which once blended into the landscape of the Great Fault and Burmarrad valley below, will now have the shadow of a showroom complex looming above them; the megaliths may well be preserved but they will rest like forgotten garden gnomes in a backyard - so much for being the stuff legends were literally made of.”

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