Planning Authority approves Ta’ Qali concert venue instead of concrete plant

Planning Authority sanctions illegal excavation of site which had been ‘deplored’ by the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage  

The Ta' Qali Concert Venue
The Ta' Qali Concert Venue

The Planning Authority has approved the construction of an open-air concert and recreational space instead of a former concrete plant. 

The venue is set to include a performance stage, shops for refreshments and music bands’ merchandise, a clinic and water reservoirs. 

The site in question occupies an area of circa 12,600sq.m and is located in the Ta’ Qali National Park, adjacent to the amphitheatre and formal garden, and in the immediate vicinity of the national stadium. The attendance in the new concert venue will be capped at 17,000. The project includes four 16m-high lighting towers. 

Giorgio Schembri, on behalf of the Attard local council, lamented the lack of consultation with the council and expressed concern on noise, light pollution and parking issues. He welcomed plans to grow 400 trees in the area. Schembri voted in favour of the project while calling for more consultation with the council. 

NGO representative Annick Bonello was the only board member to vote against, because of her concern on the height of the lighting towers which surpass the 15m limit for the area, while at the same time welcoming the upgrade of the area. 

The application also foresaw that sanctioning of excavation works carried out without a permit to the dismay of the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage (SCH), which had requested an archaeological evaluation of the site, which formed part of the Royal Air Force runway, in two requests submitted in June and September of last year. 

Yet in December the SCH wrote back to the Planning Authority, informing it that the excavation works were carried out prior to these archaeological investigations. In its note the Superintendence said that it “deplores such actions”. 

Nista' nħabbar li għadu kemm ħareġ il-permess għall-Malta National Park 🌳🇲🇹 Grazzi lit-tim kollu tiegħi. Kommess li nwassal għand in-nies dan il-proġett importanti ✅

Posted by Ian Borg on Thursday, March 25, 2021

The SCH was informed that the excavation had already been carried out during an on-site meeting with the architects of the project. During the same meeting the architects informed the Superintendence that no further excavation works are being envisaged. 

The plans foresaw “very extensive excavations” to create a number of reservoirs. 

In September the SCH “strongly” recommended that the area of the proposed development be subject to an archaeological survey of a “high technical standard” to enable the identification of any “wartime wreckage, unexploded ordnance, foundations of airfield structures and other possible historical and archaeological features”.  

To this end, the architect was advised to communicate directly with the Superintendence to commence the survey of the area. 

The footprint proposed for development formed part of the former Ta’ Qali Royal Air force Airfield with the SCH warning that “significant structural or infrastructural features may therefore survive related to the historical military function of the area”. 

Furthermore, the area has a high degree of archaeological potential as evidenced by the discovery of a cluster of rock-cut tombs and other archaeological features during the construction of the American Embassy located 280m to the South East of the current application. 

While deploring the way excavation works were carried out the SCH concluded that as indicated in the photomontages, the proposed development would not cause a major or significant visual intrusion when viewed from Mdina. 

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