The Malta Independent 25 September 2018, Tuesday

Planning Authority refuses to schedule Villa St Ignatius in Balluta – DLH

Saturday, 13 January 2018, 09:00 Last update: about 9 months ago

Environmental NGO Din l-Art Helwa has accused the Planning Authority of failing to protect Maltese heritage after it was informed that the PA had refused a request for the sanctioning of Villa St Ignatius in Balluta.

Part of the historic property was torn down by a developer last month.

On Thursday DLH organized a talk about the villa by Perit Edward Said, who proved through factual historical research that the original house of St Ignatius Villa, which still stands, is most likely the first Neo-Gothic building in Malta dating prior to 1839.

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It was referred to in a travel book of the time as  Bel-vedere and appears in numerous illustrations.

For most of the era to mid-19th century it stood as the only building dominating Balluta Bay with extensive gardens reportedly of similar calibre to properties like Villa Frere in Pieta, which is scheduled Grade 1 & 2.

Perit Said also revealed how the building was utilised as a hospital in WW1 with various personalities writing and photographing this prestigious estate. It also was the abode of many illustrious Russian refugees fleeing the Bolshevik revolution and is depicted by the famous Russian artist Nicholas Krasnoff who lived there as a refugee.

Amongst the many important Russian families residing there was the well-known family of Princess Poutiatine.

Sports historians have also hailed St Ignatius Villa as the birthplace of football in Malta, where the Melita Football Club held their premises since the 1930s, a club still in action and known to many till today.

 DLH said the lecture was well-attended but, although invited, no Planning Authority officials were present.

“The reason for non-attendance became clear when interventions from the floor were being made. The DLH legal counsel informed all present that despite the high architectural and social importance of this building, half an hour before the lecture started, a letter was received stating that the Executive Committee of the Planning Authority had turned down Din L-Art Helwa’s request for scheduling of this house. The content and timing of the refusal shocked all attendees,” DLH said.

The eNGO said: “The Executive Committee of the  Planning Authority, a handful of people,  is grievously failing in its duty to protect our heritage. Clearly the Authority has the ear of the developer and the development lobby only and is acting to enable the developer to demolish this house for speculation. In the past two months, DLH witnessed how the Planning Authority failed to stop the developer from demolishing a wing of this building, in spite of this demolition going contrary to a court ruling and a permit issued by PA itself. Our legal set-up for the protection of our heritage is being abused by the very people put in power to protect our heritage. This situation is not only shameful but bodes a very dismal future for the architectural heritage of these islands.”

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