PA approves demolition of Sliema art deco townhouses near hotel

Din l-Art Helwa and Sliema local council's calls ignored as PA approves demolition of adjacent townhouses in Hughes Hallet Street

Three art deco townhouses on Hughes Hallet street: Sliema's architecture is slowly becoming extinct
Three art deco townhouses on Hughes Hallet street: Sliema's architecture is slowly becoming extinct

The Planning Authority has approved the demolition of three adjacent townhouses in Hughes Hallet Street, ignoring calls by Din l-Art Helwa and the Sliema local council to preserve their facades.

The approval comes in the wake of an application by the same company, Roosendaal Hotels Ltd, for an additional three storeys on the adjacent Plevna hotel. The Environment Planning Commission approved the development by two votes to one. Board member Charles Grech voted against.

The application, which respects the height limitation in the area, foresees the demolition of the three townhouses, offices at ground floor, 15 residential units over five floors and two penthouses with swimming pools on the sixth floor. The basement parking will provide spaces for 57 cars.

The entire ground floor will be for commercial use. The buildings to be demolished do not form part of the urban conservation area, where permits are always issued with the condition that the original facade is restored and retained.

In its objection the Sliema local council noted that although the site is outside the urban conservation area, the facades of two of the three houses have a “distinct Art Deco design”, and have high architectural value associated with the Qui-Si-Sana and Tigné area. 

But the Planning Directorate argued that the development should be allowed as none of the buildings was protected.

“The facade of the buildings cannot be retained in view of the proposed change of use and the need of an access to the basement levels”.

The council rejoined that the fact that the buildings were not protected did not mean that these have no historical and architectural importance but that these were not appraised properly when the boundaries of the urban conservation area were drawn up.

The council also called on the PA to consult with the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage to assess the architectural value of the building.

In October 2015, the Superintendence had called on MEPA (the PA’s predecessor) to reject a similar application for the development of a maisonette, 11 apartments, a penthouse and office space instead of a Sliema townhouse in Pace Street, which was similarly not included in the urban conservation area. On that occasion the Superintendence called for Grade 2 protection for the townhouse and called for refusal of the application if the design was not changed to integrate the facades of the building. This particular application is still pending.