The Malta Independent 19 August 2019, Monday

‘First-rate’ WWII pillbox enmeshed in new modern development

Rebekah Cilia Sunday, 11 August 2019, 10:00 Last update: about 8 days ago

A WWII pillbox is being completely integrated into a new modern development that will include an art gallery, four garages, one maisonette and eight apartments. The development, which is well underway is located in San Gwann, with the apartments being advertised for €245,000.

The pillbox, which was built to look like a traditional rural structure, is said by Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna to be one of the best examples still surviving today.

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In a Facebook post showing the state of construction at the moment, several people voiced their objections and concern about the building calling it “offensive” and “disgusting”.

The original planning application for this development, filed in 2016, was actually to demolish the pillbox, which had seen NGOs, the San Gwann local council and residents coming out against the loss of the “first-rate” wartime defence post.

The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, at the time, however, noted that the property was inspected and found to be in “a dilapidated and unstable condition. The vernacular structure/ pill-box is not of such cultural heritage value as to warrant its preservation.”

New plans were then submitted declaring intent to dismantle the vernacular structure with a view to its eventual reassembly. The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage found no objection to this either.

Din L-Art Helwa “agreed in principle” to this proposal stating although the history of the structure is intrinsically combined with the place in which it is situated, and that preserving some structures in their original area has not worked at all in some cases.

It noted that the pillbox is already surrounded by nearby development and when granting permission for these buildings no allowance or provision was made to have a buffer zone surrounding the pillbox.

This, they claimed, rendered “it nothing short of a sore thumb in a new development”.

At this point, the case officer recommended that the executable permit not be issued until the vernacular structure is first relocated to another site through a separate development permit, although it was recommended for approval.

New plans were then submitted showing the pillbox to be retained completely within the new development and to be restored. 

During this time, the back wall of the pillbox collapsed due to torrential rains and as a result, the Planning Authority issued an emergency conservation order. This was submitted and the Planning Authority approved the permitted to incorporate the pillbox into the apartment block in December 2017.

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