Lia sixth-floor Valletta boardroom gets PA board approval

PA approves Pawlu Lia’s six-storey block in Valletta, PA chairman votes against

The Planning Authority’s board has approved a permit for a sixth-storey boardroom level over the approved five-storey Valletta office owner by Pawlu Lia, a one-time lawyer to former prime minister Joseph Muscat. 

Three board members, including PA chairman Vince Cassar, voted against. 

The Old Bakery Street office will now have a 40 square metre room set back from both corners.  

The PA’s case officer had recommended refusal, given that adding two storeys and a set-back office were in breach of policy, because the set-back from the façade had to be less than that of committed, adjacent properties – which was not the case on Old Bakery Street. 

Apart from Cassar, members Martin Camilleri and Duncan Mifsud voted against; three were absent; five, including ERA chairman Victor Axiak, voted in favour. 

The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage had strongly objected to the development.  

In a previous sitting, seven PA board members, including Cassar, indicated they would vote in favour. Cassar did not explain his change of heart. 

The PA had previously object to the sixth-floor boardroom in 2017. A reduced proposal resurfaced. The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage repeatedly objected to the proposal. ERA chairman Prof. Axiak justified his vote to overturn the case officer’s recommendation by pointing out that the skyline in the area is already compromised. 

Architect Ian Cutajar’s photomontage showed other approved roof structures, including a canopy on the Marks & Spencer retail store, an adjacent one on Old Theatre Street, and an office block on Old Bakery Street. Cutajar insisted that it would make more sense to “seal” the whole area with development, rather than have disparate developments. 

The architects also presented photomontages showing no impact on the skyline from long-distance views. To reduce the visual impact, a parapet wall was removed and the boardroom will be receded from the property line. 

The property had sustained considerable damage and demolition in wartime, but the Superintendence says it was subsequently rebuilt in a historical style replicating its earlier form, thereby preserving a high degree of architectural value and historical continuity for a historical city like Valletta. 

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