The Malta Independent 30 May 2020, Saturday

PA board indicates intention to approve sixth storey on Pawlu Lia’s Valletta office

Albert Galea Thursday, 14 May 2020, 15:34 Last update: about 15 days ago

The Planning Authority’s board has indicated its intention to approve a sixth storey room on the Valletta office belonging to Pawlu Lia, the lawyer of former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, despite the planning directorate’s recommendation to refuse the permit.

The application seeks to add a receded floor of 38 square metres on top of an 18th century house on the corner of Old Bakery Street and Old Theatre Street in Valletta.

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The site already has a permit for two additional floors and the PA had already approved its conversion from a residence into an office.  That application had been turned down, but was the rejection was overturned in December 2018. 

The proposed extension to these two storeys is planned to house a boardroom, meaning that the house will now rise to six storey from its original three.  The proposed room will be setback from both the streets that the house borders.

The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage had objected to the proposed extension, stating that the room had to be receded further.  The Design Advisory Committee meanwhile found no objection, but similarly said that because the structure is not receded it runs again the PA’s policies.

Several environmental NGOs meanwhile had objected to the proposal, noting that it would cause irreversible damage to Valletta’s skyline and character.

Taking all things into consideration, the directorate recommended the application for refusal.

However, the recommendation was overturned by the Planning Authority board, with seven members indicating that they would vote in favour.

The application will return to the board for a final vote in a future sitting, as is mandated common practice when the board shows its intention to overturn the directorate’s recommendation.

ERA chairman Victor Axiak was one who showed his intention to vote in favour of the project, and he justified his vote to overturn the case officer’s recommendation by pointing out that the skyline in the area is already compromised.

Project architect Ian Cutajar’s photomontage showed other approved roof structures, including a canopy on a retail store next door, an adjacent one on Old Theatre Street, and an office block on Old Bakery Street. Cutajar insisted that it would make more sense to “seal” the whole area with development, rather than have sporadic developments.

The architect also presented photomontages which showed that there would be no impact on the city’s skyline from long-distance views, and noted that a parapet wall had also been removed in order to further reduce the visual impact.

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