Dig­ging a hole

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

In 2008, con­tro­versy was rife in Malta over the ap­pli­ca­tion by the St John’s Foun­da­tion to ex­tend the cathe­dral mu­seum by dig­ging a huge hole out­side the cathe­dral to house the price­less Go­belin ta­pes­tries.

De­vel­op­ment ap­pli­ca­tion PA 00167/08 dealt with an ex­ten­sion at St John's Co-Cathe­dral Mu­seum in Val­letta.

The pro­posed pro­ject was to in­clude the con­struc­tion of a three-storey high build­ing on the court­yard along Mer­chants Street to pro­vide ad­di­tional space and a can­teen at roof level.

Ac­cord­ing to the de­vel­op­ment ap­pli­ca­tion, the façade of the co-cathe­dral along Mer­chants Street will be al­tered by the pro­posed struc­ture that will stand above the graves of the Knights of the Order.

A sec­ond ap­pli­ca­tion, PA 00168/08, pro­posed to ex­tend St John's Co-Cathe­dral Mu­seum by excavating cham­bers be­low St John's Street, con­nect­ing them to ex­ist­ing un­der­ground wa­ter reser­voirs, and con­struct­ing a ver­ti­cal lift through all the floors, apart from al­ter­ations.

The two wa­ter cis­terns there are among the ear­li­est in Val­letta, thought to have been built on the in­sis­tence of Francesco La­par­elli ev­i­dence

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of the ad­vanced en­gi­neer­ing tech­niques and the fore­sight of the Order in as­sur­ing Val­letta's wa­ter sup­ply.

All Malta rose in hor­ror. Flimkien ghal Am­b­jent Ah­jar led the charge. “This un­der­ground ex­hi­bi­tion space is in­tended to house the Go­belins ta­pes­tries. How­ever, in ad­di­tion to the prob­lems of cre­at­ing ac­cess, this would re­quire a con­sid­er­able air and hu­mid­ity con­trol in­stal­la­tion, which will cause fur­ther dam­age to the vaulted cis­terns.

“It is felt that the po­ten­tial risks posed by ex­hibit­ing price­less ta­pes­tries in un­der­ground cham­bers, as well as the in­evitable dam­age to part of the most im­por­tant mon­u­ment that Malta pos­sesses, are to­tally un­ac­cept­able,” the NGO said.

“Fur­ther­more, ex­ca­va­tions at St John's Square to pro­vide more cham­bers might not only af­fect the cathe­dral's foun­da­tions but also de­stroy the re­mains of pre­vi­ous knights' pe­riod struc­tures,” it added.

The FAA in­sisted that such a his­tor­i­cal and long-es­tab­lished ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment that has long been en­joyed by Val­letta res­i­dents and vis­i­tors should not be de­stroyed, dis­rupt­ing the com­mu­nity by de­priv­ing it of trees that are es­sen­tial for shade and help to re­move pol­lu­tants from the air.

At the end, af­ter the ap­pli­ca­tion seemed about to be taken and dis­cussed in Par­lia­ment, then Arch­bishop Cre­mona or­dered the Foun­da­tion to de­sist.

On Saturday, with a lot of ad­vance pub­lic­ity, Projects Malta an­nounced a com­pe­ti­tion for a 350-car park­ing de­vel­op­ment next to the Mosta Dome.

This time, the (Na­tion­al­ist) lo­cal coun­cil is on board and the church, now un­der a new arch­priest, has been con­sulted and will be ap­point­ing a mem­ber to the tech­ni­cal mon­i­tor­ing board, which would have ac­cess to all the im­pact stud­ies. There has been, so far no whim­per from FAA or from any other en­vi­ron­men­tal or her­itage NGO.

This is be­ing pointed out to high­light the vast dis­crep­ancy be­tween St John’s 2008 and Mosta Dome 2016. The Mosta ex­ca­va­tion will ac­tu­ally be nearer the church than the St John’s cis­terns are. And will prob­a­bly be deeper to ac­com­mo­date all those cars.

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