Ap­pli­ca­tion to turn Sliema town­house into apart­ments to be heard to­mor­row

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - Kevin Schem­bri Or­land

The con­tro­ver­sial planning ap­pli­ca­tion re­gard­ing a town house sit­u­ated on Cathe­dral Street in Sliema, which has re­ceived a flood of ob­jec­tions by NGOs and third par­ties, is set to be heard by the PA board this Thurs­day.

“This full de­vel­op­ment per­mis­sion ap­pli­ca­tion pro­poses the de­mo­li­tion of the larger part of the ex­ist­ing town house, re­tain­ing the fa­cade, entrance hall and first flight of steps to­gether with the ad­di­tion of three floors and a set­back floor. The pro­posed build­ing is or­gan­ised on 5 floors plus a set­back floor,” the case of­fi­cer’s re­port reads.

The Sliema lo­cal coun­cil said that it ob­jects as a mat­ter of prin­ci­ple to the de­vel­op­ment of town houses into apart­ments, “in view of the ad­verse ef­fects on the qual­ity of life of res­i­dents, traf­fic im­pact and in­fra­struc­ture.” The coun­cil went on to state that the pro­posed height should match prop­er­ties in the vicin­ity.

In a fur­ther sub­mis­sion, fol­low­ing the al­ter­ation of cer­tain plans, Ar­chi­tect Robert Grech, on be­half of the Sliema Lo­cal Coun­cil said they are still ob­ject­ing, and said, amongst other things, that the ex­ist­ing town house forms part of a row of iden­ti­cal build­ings hav­ing im­por­tant ar­chi­tec­tural fea­tures “and even though the cen­tral stair­case is be­ing re­tained, the de­mo­li­tion of the rest of the build­ing which is in a very good state of preser­va­tion is not ac­cept­able.”

Din L-Art Helwa is urg­ing the PA to con­serve the build­ing as a house. “This build­ing ty­pol­ogy is be­ing to­tally dis­re­garded and wiped out. DLH is in favour of the restora­tion and re-use of tra­di­tional build­ings. Ur­ban Con­ser­va­tion Ar­eas should not be ar­eas tar­geted by de­vel­op­ers, and im­por­tance is to be given to con­ser­va­tion in these ar­eas.”

Rep­re­sent­ing third par­ties, Ar­chi­tect Stephen Psaila filed an ob­jec­tion, stat­ing that the town house forms part of a row of dou­ble fronted town­houses com­mis­sioned by the Md­ina Cathe­dral be­tween 1870 and 1886 for cler­gy­men com­ing from renowned fam­i­lies.

“The houses are char­ac­terised by sim­i­lar lay­outs, sym­met­ri­cal fa­cades and sim­i­lar ar­chi­tec­tural ele­ments which cre­ate or­nate fa­cades which give a strong char­ac­ter to this part of Cathe­dral Street. This led to the es­tab­lish­ment of a height lim­i­ta­tion of two floors for the area as des­ig­nated in the Lo­cal Plan, which sce­nario has sur­vived till today. Ap­proval of the de­vel­op­ment would ir­re­versibly al­ter the streetscape. Fur­ther­more, the town­houses rest on highly frac­tured rock and the row of build­ings will be af­fected by ex­ca­va­tion works.”

Other third par­ties ar­gue that the pro­posed in­ter­nal de­mo­li­tion and al­ter­ations to fa­cade do not com­ply with the Ur­ban Con­ser­va­tion Area des­ig­na­tion for the area, that the fa­cade is not in a dan­ger­ous state and should be re­tained as is, that the pro­posed ad­di­tional floors do not com­ple­ment the ex­ist­ing un­der­ly­ing floors.

Flimkien Ghal Am­b­jent Ah­jar (FAA) in a press state­ment yes­ter­day, said that last Jan­uary, the FAA had crit­i­cized the de­vel­op­ment which orig­i­nally sought the en­tire de­mo­li­tion of this pres­ti­gious build­ing, “opt­ing only to re­tain its fa­cade pa­thet­i­cally dwarfed un­der four ad­di­tional floors. In re­sponse to the crit­i­cism and as a mis­er­able at­tempt to ease her­itage con­cerns the ap­pli­cant re­vised the pro­posal, de­mol­ish­ing por­tions of the site. How­ever the ap­pli­cant is still in­sist­ing on the de­vel­op­ment of four ad­di­tional floors tow­er­ing above the orig­i­nal build­ing as well as a 6-storey de­vel­op­ment in­stead of its ma­ture back gar­den.”

The FAA said that the stately town­house and gar­den will be en­gulfed by a con­crete block, “mor­phed be­yond recog­ni­tion, with the re­ten­tion of its fab­ric serv­ing as noth­ing more than a to­ken mea­sure to jus­tify this abu­sive at­tempt to de­velop this her­itage prop­erty”.

The Su­per­in­ten­dence of Cul­tural Her­itage also ob­jects to the pro­posal.

The case of­fi­cer said that the ex­ces­sive de­mo­li­tion, un­ac­cept­able height, etc. had been com­mu­ni­cated to the ar­chi­tect in let­ter. “The ar­chi­tect’s most re­cent sub­mis­sions do not ad­dress the is­sues sat­is­fac­to­rily. The ar­chi­tect re­quested a fur­ther sus­pen­sion of the ap­pli­ca­tion, how­ever the ar­chi­tect was no­ti­fied that all of the avail­able sus­pen­sion pe­riod has been availed of and no fur­ther sus­pen­sion may be granted.”

The Case of­fi­cer has rec­om­mended that the ap­pli­ca­tion be re­fused.

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