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How a contract from 1915 can turn a derelict country ruin into a villa

A lease contract signed 100 years ago refers to someone living in “five rooms” in the Palma area, and thanks to the controversial Rural Policy in Design Guidelines, will allow the derelict countryside ruins to be transformed into the villa

james
James Debono
9 August 2016, 12:26pm
Google Maps screenshot of the five rooms once leased out in 1915, on the road leading to Ghajn Tuffieha and Manikata
Google Maps screenshot of the five rooms once leased out in 1915, on the road leading to Ghajn Tuffieha and Manikata
The Planning Driectorate has once again ignored the advice of the Environment Resources Authority, by recommending the approval of a 200 square metre residence in the leafy Palma area of Mgarr on the pretext of a contract inked back in 1915.   A final decision on this application will be taken on September 28.

The lease contract signed 100 years ago refers to someone living in “five rooms” in the Palma area, and thanks to the controversial Rural Policy in Design Guidelines, will allow the derelict countryside ruins to be transformed into the villa.

The residence will also be surrounded by a 112 square metre paved area.

Under the new policy all that an owner has to do is prove that the derelict rural structures had served as a dwelling in the past. Additionally, any building constructed before 1978 is considered as legal so any ruin of such buildings may now be rebuilt as a countryside dwelling.

One side-effect of this new policy has been a marked appreciation in the price of countryside ruins areas that are outside development zones.

Once again the Planning Directorate, has ignored the advice of the Environment Resources Authority, which had objected to the dwelling on the Wardija ridge, an ‘Area of High Landscape Protection’ and a buffer zone to an ‘Area of Ecological Importance’.

If approved, the existing dilapidated rooms – occupying a footprint of 122 square metres – will be demolished and make way for the construction of a one-storey dwelling set on a 200 square metre footprint. The new building will also have a basement, which will include a wine cellar. A paved passageway and a cesspit are also proposed. Although larger than the existing footprint occupied by the rooms, the new building was considered to “blend well with the surroundings.”

During the processing of the application, architect Colin Zammit presented evidence consisting of a contract and site-plan dating back to 1915. The contract shows that a certain Paolo Galea was the inhabitant of five rooms for which he paid rent. Receipts for rent payments dating back to the same period were also presented. An extract from the 1939 electoral register also referred to the same Paolo Galea as a resident of Tal-Palma in the limits of Mgarr.

Mark Samuel Schembri presented the application.

james
James Debono is MaltaToday's chief reporter on environment, planning and land use issues, ...
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