56% of properties scheduled in last five years are in Sliema

A total of 227 properties have been listed in the Planning Authority’s register of protected buildings since 2017, of which 126 are in Sliema

56% of the 227 properties granted protection in the past five years are located in Sliema. And only 2.6% are located in Gozo. And with its early 20th century townhouse rows, not one single Birkirkara townhouse at Fleur de Lys enjoys any sort of formal protection.

Information tabled in parliament shows that 227 properties were granted protection in the past five years, of which 126 are located in Sliema, 34 are located in Rabat, 10 in Pietà and 8 in Msida.

Properties granted protection in Sliema include a cluster of 20 townhouses in the vicinity of St Patrick’s School, in Triq Dun Mikiel Rua, Triq Guzè Howard, Triq Poutiatin Tabone and Triq San Ġwann Bosco.

Another 22 properties in Sliema exhibiting traditional, eclectic and Art Nouveau designs were given heritage protection in 2018. But the PA has still not decided on whether to schedule the Fort Cambridge barracks as requested by the Sliema local council. The building is currently earmarked for a 33-storey hotel.

Only two properties have been scheduled in St Julian’s. Last year the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage issued an emergency conservation to protect Palazzina Vincenti, a modernist building earmarked for another high-rise hotel. The emergency conservation order was issued as a stop-gap measure until the building is scheduled.

Only six Gozitan properties have been scheduled and none have been scheduled in St Paul’s Bay, Qormi and Mosta – all major urban centres which include historical cores.

Currently 2092 properties are listed for their architectural value on the Planning Authority’s register of scheduled properties.


How buildings are scheduled

Article 57 of the Development Planning Act 2016 regulates the scheduling of such properties in Malta.

Once a property is assessed and considered to contain heritage significance it is then ranked according to the degree of protection. The ranking is determined by the item’s importance.

Not all buildings enjoy the same level of conservation.

Grade 1 properties and their surroundings enjoy maximum protection and Grade 2 properties are largely protected from demolition but may be subject to internal alterations, while parts of Grade 3 properties may be removed.

In the past years the PA has allowed the addition of new storeys on buildings enjoying grade 2 protection. Moreover, the gardens surrounding these buildings are not always granted protection.

Grades of protection are only indicative. According to the PA there is “no one way to define what works can be carried out to a protected (scheduled) property.

This is determined on a case-by-case basis”.

The scheduling of buildings is the responsibility of the PA’s Executive Council, which is chaired by the authority’s Executive Chairperson. Whenever the Executive Council is considering scheduling it is also legally obliged to invite the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage for its meetings.

Scheduled buildings can include buildings, structures and remains of geological, paleontological, cultural, archaeological, architectural, historical, antiquarian, artistic or landscape importance.

The list of scheduling orders, and any additions or amendments to it has to be published in the Government Gazette and in a local newspaper. The Executive Council also has to notify any one of the owners of any property subject to a scheduling order of its inclusion in the list. A notice has to be affixed on site.

The owner of a scheduled property may request the reconsideration of any scheduling of his property.

The PA’s criteria for scheduling buildings include historical significance, architectural significance and social significance, research significance and their uniqueness.

Items which demonstrate strong associations to “past customs, cultural practices, philosophies or systems of government” can be eligible for sanctioning, regardless of the intactness of the item or any structure on the place.

Any item with strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group in Malta for “social, cultural or spiritual reasons” can also be scheduled. So are buildings deemed to be “the only example of their type”.

Scheduled buildings presently include a total of 50 parish churches, all scheduled as Grade 1 monuments. A number of private residences have also been scheduled over the years. These include Dom Mintoff’s residence in Tarxien which was granted Grade 1 protection in 2018.

Very few modernist buildings have been included in the list of scheduled buildings. These include modernist architecture like a number of buildings within the University of Malta complex at Tal-Qroqq, Villino Grech in Naxxar Road, Birkirkara, The Lodge at Ta’ Xbiex, Villino Sushine in Ta’ Xbiex, Mount St. Joseph in Mosta, Muscat Motors in Gzira, and three bus shelters in Marsa, Floriana and Hamrun. All of these properties were listed between 2010 and 2012.