The Malta Independent 26 May 2024, Sunday
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NGO says PA and cultural heritage watchdog endanger Valletta’s status as UNESCO World Heritage Site

Wednesday, 15 May 2024, 17:26 Last update: about 10 days ago

Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar and the Sliema Residents Association condemned the Planning Commission ​and the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, the very authorities responsible for safeguarding Malta's heritage, for having approved a particular application.

The application proposal read that it was for the: "sanctioning of changes to lido development approved in PA/04590/19: changes to landscaping layout and addition of enclosure to staircase at street level; internal layout changes including extension of dining area of approved Class 4D restaurant into approved terrace and addition of canopy over terrace at intermediate level; changes to pool and sundeck layout and introduction of Class 4D restaurant at sun-deck level including small footprint extension to accommodate bathrooms. Proposed construction of additional pool and changes to deck levels."

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FAA and the Sliema Residents Association said that the PA and Superintendence "ha​ve shamefully endangered Valletta's status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site when, with the blessing of the SCH,​ the PA approved​  a request​ for the sanctioning of an illegally built structure along the Tigné coast in an area of High Landscape Value.  The site lies within the proposed buffer zone for the safeguarding of Valletta's status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site."

"At its September 2023 Riyadh Conference, UNESCO issued a statement 'noting that the Maltese authorities made no reference to height increases in projects within and in the vicinity of Valletta" and suggested that the Maltese Government "pays particular attention to the indirect and cumulative impacts of the many projects proposed in Valletta and its buffer zone.' Yet the Planning Authority ignores such clear warnings," the NGOs added.

"The Valletta Management Plan calls for the safeguarding of the views and vistas of Valletta, and the Valletta buffer zone is being created to safeguard such views.  Yet this permit was approved in spite of both the Superintendence and developers' architect admitting that this structure has a negative impact on the views of Valletta and the other Grade 1 structures in the area such as Fort Manoel. Clearly the project violates the clause that it is not to rise above existing street level; on the right-hand-side, the height of the structure completely obliterates views of Valletta."

"The SCH stated that the impact is insignificant while the developers' architect claimed that the structure 'does not excessively break the view from the promenade.'  Whether the impact is significant or not excessive is subjective; clearly the structure's impact on the views is a negative one and not positive."

"Furthermore, the Planning Board had imposed the condition that the structure's footprint was not to be increased in size as originally approved by PA 4590/19 on the 11 June 2020 and this was to be included in a public deed to be signed between the PA and the developers. After 4 years we learn that the public deed was never signed. When this clause in permit PA 4590/19 was pointed out, Martin Camilleri, Environment Planning Commission (EPC) Chairman hastened to get the permit approved in violation of the condition. Clearly, some developers carry more weight than UNESCO," the NGOs said.

"This approval has created ugly precedents. The Planning Board itself rightly deferred approval of the Manoel Island project as it lies within the proposed Valletta buffer zone, yet the lesser Environment Planning Commission decided differently.  This opens the possibility for further developments all along the coast of Sliema, Gzira, Ta' Xbiex and Pietà, as each individual development will not be significant but their cumulative effect would be disastrous to the views of Valletta's iconic World Heritage fortifications."

"Furthermore, how can the public have confidence in the Planning Authority when a public deed required as a permit condition is not signed after four years?  What is the use of such permits when the conditions therein are allowed to be changed with impunity?  How can the public have confidence in the PA when it makes a permit subject to a deed on permanent open spaces which is never signed?"


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