Marchesinos want Mdina bastion ruins turned into new houses

Case officer recommends refusal as documentation proving past residential use is deemed contradictory and one of the rooms was already roofless in 1978

Bottom left: as proposed, the new villa would replace a dilapidated hovel
Bottom left: as proposed, the new villa would replace a dilapidated hovel

A collection of dilapidated rooms that lie in the fields below the Mdina bastions are being earmarked for two dwellings of 290sq.m and 170sq.m.

The two applications, presented by Matthew and Luke Marshall, sons of the Marquis Marcus Scicluna Marshall, seek a permit for maintenance works on the pre-1967 residences. But the 2014 rural policy only allows redevelopments of vernacular buildings upon proof of past residential use.

The applicants claim the derelict farmhouses had been inhabited by two families listed in the electoral registers of 1959, 1961, and 1968. In one case it was claimed that the tenant continued to live in the property till the late 1990s, with official correspondence requesting funds from the landowner for works carried out within the residence being submitted as proof. In the other case correspondence between the Department of Social Services and the owner dated 1969, requesting an extension of the residence to better accommodate tenants, was submitted.

But the PA case officer assessing the two applications has described the proof submitted as ‘contradictory’, pointing out the absence of a contract of deeds and corresponding site plans or utility bills paid. Moreover, the Planning Authority was unable to clarify whether the address and site referred to in the electoral registers refers to that of the rooms mentioned in the application.

Furthermore, in one of the applications, aerial photos indicate that the structure was already roofless in 1978 and was therefore already not habitable 35 years ago.

Moreover, although the design of the proposed buildings is considered suitable and one which respects the rural context, the case officer has expressed concern on the extent of the proposed development in in an Area of High Landscape Value.

The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage has issued its clearance for the restoration works in both properties even if it had expressed reservations on the sensitivity of the site. But the Environment and Resources Authority is objecting warning that the proliferation of residential development will ruin the rural character of the area. It also expressed concern about demolition and construction works noting the terracing nature of the site and that the site is densely covered with trees and shrubs. ERA also expressed concern on the “reconstruction of structures which have long since been demolished into a fully-fledged residences in the ODZ.” A decision on the proposed development will be taken during a public hearing on 26 February.