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PA grants permission to demolish two townhouses in Gozitan main square

The Planning Authority has approved the demolition of two townhouses in Zebbug's main square two days before election

James Debono
23 June 2017, 10:14am
Two days before the 3 June general election, the Planning Authority approved the demolition of two characteristic townhouses in the heart of Zebbug, Gozo to make way for a nine-room hotel, a shop and four apartments.

The application was presented by developer Joseph Portelli.

The site falls within the Urban Conservation Area, in the main square of Zebbug.

Surprisingly, no concerns were raised about the proposed demolition of the existing building by the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage, which concluded that “the existing properties do not have such cultural heritage value as to warrant their preservation”.

But the PA has disregarded the advise of its own Design Advisory Committee which insisted that “the existing facade should be retained” and that sensitive additions should be made to existing building fabric.

According to the Din l-Art Helwa, the case will set a precedent for the destruction of typical town houses with stone balconies in village cores which are typical of the Gozo townhouses

“No replacement can replace our heritage; the destruction of these two houses will set a very ugly precedent - if this were to go ahead we would sanction the end of historic village squares. In our opinion at DLH  this is a serious challenge to conservation preservation of our history".

Architect Edward Said who objected to the development recalled that as a university student he had carried out extensive research on Gozitan stone balconies.

“The ones on the two houses to be demolished date to the early 20th century, possibly slightly older. The proportions of the balconies including their arches, parapets and corbels are both finely executed and typical examples of Gozitan vernacular architecture, particularly the one which has an exquisitely executed Marian anagram and Maltese crosses”.

He also described the proposed façade as “ too formal and symmetrical, and does not have any of the original fabric integrated within it”.

The new building will consist in a three storeys building which will appear as a two storeys building from street level, and will keep to  the same height and similar proportions as the neighbouring buildings

According to the Pllanning Authority the  proposal is similar to four other permits issued  in Gozo in 2013 and 2014, wherein three floors where fitted within the height of  existing two storeys buildings.

The building which faces the square on one side and a ridge on the other raising concern on the visual impact, although plans presented to the PA show that the building will not portrude beyond the ridge line even if it has a depth of 32 meters.

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