Hotel proposed in Zebbug palazzo’s garden

The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage has objected to a proposal to add two storeys to Villa Buleben in Zebbug turning the historic palazzo into a hotel

Plans to add two new wings to an 18th century palazzo in Zebbug in a bid to transform into a hotel have prompted the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage to give Villa Buleben and its gardens the highest level of protection to ensure its protection.

The development, to which the cultural heritage authority has already objected, would see the excavation of the gardens and the development of a two-storey block on top of two levels of underground parking.  

The proposal also includes the restoration of a nearby chapel, the existing palazzo, garden and surrounding boundary walls.

The Villa Buleben estate presently consists of a two-storey grand palazzo, large gardens of different sizes – which include water channelling for irrigation – and several structures which probably served as the servants’ quarters. The chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Forsaken Souls, located adjacent to this estate, was also constructed in the late 18th century.

The chapel and palazzo border on a picturesque valley which has been designated as a Green Area in the South Malta Local Plan. The Superintendence said that the chapel, the palazzo with its gardens, and their spatial relationship with the valley, create a significant and legible cultural landscape, the value of which needs to be recognised and protected.

While the Superintendence has welcomed the proposed rehabilitation and restoration of the existing historic property, it described the proposed plans as “unacceptable from a cultural heritage point of view”

The proposed excavation works in the protected garden have been deemed excessive, altering the historical garden in both physical and visual terms. The SCH also warned that any proposed excavation works underneath the palazzo would pose a threat to the structural stability of the historic building.

The extensions proposed in the gardens, particularly to the north of the site, are also deemed excessive, and” totally incongruous” with the historic Villa Buleben.

“These massive structures will totally destroy the views and vistas of the existing green open space and will compromise all legibility of the gardens,” the SCH said.

But it did not exclude a less extensive extension which would be of a high-quality design compatible with the scheduled properties and the historic urban setting.

The SCH has also recommended that the palazzo and its gardens should be re-scheduled at Grade 1 to ensure that this pristine historical and cultural area is preserved in its context.

The application has been presented by Daniel Bonnici who declared owning the entire site. Edwin Mintoff is the architect of the project.

Back in 2008 the Planning authority had refused an application presented by a previous owner to construct 27 basement garages and 11 overlying terraced houses with swimming pools in the gardens of the villa.