Planning Authority systematically ignoring policies in favour of heritage to make way for more development

Pieta Tool room

The Planning Authority is set to approve the complete development of one of the last remaining unbuilt areas of Pieta to make way for more apartments. This rare pocket of agricultural land found on Triq Pietru Xuereb presently boasts a number of mature trees, including almond trees, prickly pears and Cyprus trees among others. Being over 50 years old, these trees should be protected. Despite this, all will be removed once the application is approved.

In addition to the loss of open space and greenery within this built-up area, the development will result in the demolition of a historic tool-room believed to be over 250 years old, and risk damaging a World War II shelter located on site.

The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage approved the application on condition that the applicant submit photos clearly showing the tool-room being proposed for demolition as well as submitting a plan indicating the exact location of the World War II shelter. These photos should have been submitted before approval for the Superintendence to firstly assess the heritage value tool-room and advise on whether it should be retained, and secondly, to understand if the proposal will damage the World War II shelters.

The applicant did not submit any such information, and therefore since the Superintendent’s conditions were not met, the recommendation for approval is no longer valid. Despite this, through a warped interpretation of facts, the Planning Authority’s case officer stated that even though the developer did not submit the required photos, the Superintendent’s approval still stands.

The case officer concludes that the photographic information showing the value of this heritage building requested by the Superintendence is not necessary due to the fact that the tool-room is located on a planned schemed road that has been approved by Transport Malta. The case officer goes on to completely ignore the second condition raised by the Superintendence about locating the World War II shelters, and proceeds to give the application a recommendation for approval.

Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar questions how clearance from Transport Malta for the construction of a road justifies demolishing a centuries-old tool room forming part of our cultural heritage? This is especially unjustified when the ‘schemed road’ planned is simply a roundabout providing access to the proposed private apartment block, meaning we are demolishing heritage to facilitate yet more speculative development.

Furthermore, what was the scope of asking the Superintendent for their recommendation if the Planning Authority had no intention of considering their professional opinion to begin with?

The Planning Commission is set to take a decision for this application on Friday, and will likely approve the concreting of more un-built land along with the destruction of heritage, this having proven to be their mantra time and time again.

Press Release issued on: 19/04/2017 under MEPA, Urban Design