The Malta Independent 17 February 2020, Monday

Cultural Heritage watchdog concerned over application to demolish Sliema houses for hostel

Kevin Schembri Orland Monday, 20 January 2020, 09:24 Last update: about 28 days ago

The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage has hit out at a planning application that would see two Sliema townhouses demolished, to make way for a hostel.

The application calls for the demolition of existing terraced houses on Triq Gorg Borg Olivier, Sliema, retaining their facades, and the construction of a hostel consisting of a basement, and a total of five floors and a receded floor

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In correspondence with the Planning Authority about this particular application, the Superintendence said that the properties in question are two traditional townhouses of historic and architectural value located within the Urban Conservation Area of Sliema.

The Superintendence notes that the properties directly abut a series of Grade 2 scheduled properties of high historical and architectural value.

“The proposal is for the demolition of the terraced houses, retaining the facades, and construction of a hotel consisting of a basement, an additional three floors and a receded floor (over what already exists). The Superintendence together with the Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee has reviewed this proposal and objects to the demolition of the properties as proposed. The properties are worthy of retention and their internal demolition would consist of a loss to cultural heritage.”

The Superintendence said however that sensitive alterations to the interior of the existing property may be considered.

“The proposed increase in height will result in excessive creation of blank party walls that will negatively impact the streetscape, especially considering the series of scheduled neighbouring properties. The Design Advisory Committee has also expressed its concern in this regard. Any proposed increase in height is to be limited to a maximum of two storeys plus an additional receded floor above, that is to be set back also from the side abutting the scheduled property,” the Superintendence added. “This is so as to provide an adequate transition from the existing neighbouring property. Furthermore, the additional floors are to be receded from the existing façade alignment”

The Superintendence argues that, in addition to this, the treatment of the façade is to be revised to be more in keeping with the existing buildings and the neighbouring scheduled properties within the streetscape of the Urban Conservation Area. The Superintendence said that it will comment further on this development application on receipt of an amended proposal taking into consideration the above concerns. “In the absence of the above documentation being submitted for assessment to the Superintendence, this development application should be refused.”

The Sliema local council has weighed in on the project, stressing that the current buildings have several architectural features worth preserving, among other things. The council also argues that the lower part of Borg Olivier street is predominantly a residential area, and also made reference to the protected houses next to the proposed development.

The council highlighted that the proposal goes against planning policy.

ENGO Din L-Art Helwa (DLH) has also submitted their objection. DLH argues that the proposal will have an irreversible impact on cultural heritage due to the “unjustified loss of the historical fabric through the proposed demolition,” and the “replacement building being at a scale and volume that is not representative of the traditional character of the streetscape.” DLH said that the proposal runs counter to certain policies

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