The Malta Independent 8 December 2019, Sunday

Former Censu Tabone St Julian’s residence could be demolished, replaced by apartments

Kevin Schembri Orland Wednesday, 17 July 2019, 11:13 Last update: about 6 months ago

An application has been filed for a St Julian’s townhouse where former President Censu Tabone once lived to be demolished and replaced by apartments, leading to strong criticism by Din L-Art Helwa, who are also recommending that it be given heritage protection status.

The site is located on 32/33 Triq il-Karmnu, St Julian’s and features a garden theatre which is also under threat.

The application calls for the “demolition of a derelict residential dwelling, the construction of three levels of basement garages, and fourteen residential units on four levels with a communal open space. The facade is to be designed in fair faced limestone with UCA characteristics.”

It is an outline development application. This type of planning permission seeks to establish whether the scale and nature of a proposed development is acceptable in principle to the Authority. Subsequent, to receiving this planning permission an applicant will require a full development permit to actually carry out the project. With this application fewer details are required.

The application was filed by Scicluna Enterprises (Gozo) Ltd, Paul Scicluna.

Din L-Art Helwa has filed an objection, and argues that contrary to that being claimed in the application, the property in question being proposed for demolition is not a derelict building (though even if it were in a state of abandonment, as a traditional building in an urban conservation area, its demolition would not be justified).”

The NGO argued that the house is “a distinguished townhouse with a large formal garden and theatre, that was once the home of former President Censu Tabone and his wife Maria. For this reason it is being requested that the property be recognised as forming part of St Julian’s and Malta’s cultural heritage, and as such be protected through its inclusion in the list of scheduled properties as a Grade 2 building or higher.”

Din L-Art Helwa argues that the total demolition of a historical building in n urban conservation area, its replacement with a development built to an incongruent height and style, the total excavation of the site to a depth of at least 3 storeys will have a massive impact on the neighbourhood. The NGO argues that the Planning Authority should not consider approving the principle of this development through an outline development application “without having carried out an adequate comprehensive assessment of the serious impacts, as it would render any such studies being carried out at full development stage completely futile. Furthermore continuation of the processing of this application as a summary, having only a 2 week representation period, will further infringe on third parties’ rights to have adequate time to act and respond to this proposed development expected to have such a massive negative impact on the community. The process can as such not be deemed to be conducive to fair planning that considers the interests of the public.”

The NGO argues that the proposal will have an irreversible negative impact on cultural heritage due to: “the unjustified loss of the historical fabric through the proposed total demolition of this distinguished townhouse; the loss and redevelopment of its grounds that also include a theatre and a formal garden; the redevelopment of the site to an incongruent building height and the introduction of unrelated pastiche elements across a new façade which will impinge on the character of this traditional streetscape; the creation of extensive party walls disturbing all views towards and around the site, that lies at the centre of an intact extent of the St Julian’s UCA.”

St Julian’s mayor Albert Buttigieg has also posted about the application on Facebook. “Our core village is under constant threat - this is the sixth mega application within our core village If all these applications are to be approved, then St Julian’s is lost forever ! The PA instead of safeguarding our heritage is acting as a fine enabler to this greed and short-sightedness!”

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