The Malta Independent 22 October 2020, Thursday

Local council, activists, residents unite in effort to save Fgura's oldest building from demolition

Thursday, 24 September 2020, 13:17 Last update: about 27 days ago

The Fgura local council, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, and residents of the locality have united in an effort to save what is believed to be Fgura’s oldest standing building from demolition.

The building – a now dilapidated farmhouse on a tract of land in the centre of Fgura – is facing demolition after being suddenly de-scheduled, with the Planning Authority meeting to decide its fate on Thursday.

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In a press conference on Wednesday, Aldo Busuttil, a Fgura resident explained that since Fgura lay in the line of fire of the Cottonera fortifications, it was not possible to build palaces, auberges or fine houses there.

In medieval times, residents of Ħal-Ellul used to graze their cattle and grow crops at Ħal-Għarrat (today's Fgura).

Fgura was always characterised by garigue, fields and farmhouses and indeed, Notarial Archives of 1505 refer to a family with the Sicilian surname of 'Ficura' connected to this area, establishing the importance of this farmhouse as a unique symbol of the identity and origins of Fgura.

The last surviving farmhouse in Fgura, this building is replete with connections to Fgura's heritage, built across the road from Fgura's old church dating to 1790 which was demolished to make way for the main road. The wartime Victory Kitchen was set up in one of the nearby barns, and the wartime shelter lies beneath the door next to the farmhouse.

Aldo Busuttil was extremely critical of the report drawn up by the Planning Authority directorate, which he described as biased, being fully of amateur comments and strange recommendations leading to the decision to de-schedule the farmhouse.

This was taken up by Astrid Vella, Coordinator of Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar who stated that the very architectural features mentioned in the report, are quoted by the PA to enforce the protection of buildings of no historic importance, yet here a scheduled building relating to the origins of the town was being de-scheduled, in preparation for its destruction.

Astrid Vella asked how it could be that the Planning Authority vehemently resisted three requests for de-scheduling until 2012, then suddenly granted it in 2015.

Vella stated that heritage buildings are very important to residents' quality of life, since they are give residents a sense of identity and provide a much-needed green lung. She called for strong re-scheduling of the old farmhouse and respect for its surroundings since trees are the only way to reduce Fgura's high rate of air pollution which contributes to many health problems.

Pierre Dalli, Mayor of Fgura, meanwhile emphasised that the Fgura Local Council had fought for the scheduling of Fgura's last farmhouse for 25 years, and was shocked when the government acceded to the descheduling request and sold the road in front of the farmhouse to the site's developers without consulting with the Council.

The Mayor concluded by saying that the Council would continue in its efforts to have the old farmhouse used for the benefit of the community.

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