Application to turn Sliema townhouse into apartments to be heard tomorrow
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.