PA ignores UNESCO request for a heritage assessment on Xagħra development

Application for development of 22 apartments approved by seven votes against one

A photomontage of the Xagħra development
A photomontage of the Xagħra development

The Planning Authority has approved an apartment block consisting of 22 apartments and 20 basement garages instead of an existing dwelling on the edge of the Xagħra Development Zone – despite a clear request by the UNESCO for a heritage impact assessment which was never carried out.

Only NGO representative Romano Cassar voted against insisting that the heritage assessment should be carried out before any decision is taken, while pointing out that the development will also impact the landscape and have an increased massing.

PA chairman Emmanuel Camilleri insisted that heritage impact assessments were not in the remit of the authority. Camilleri also insisted that UNECSO had never communicated directly with the Planning Authority. He also pointed out the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage had never withdrawn its consent for the development.

The development will take place 157 meters from the Ġgantija temples and 11m from archaeological remains identified during archaeological investigations related to the FRAGSUS project.

The site lies in an area of archaeological importance but outside the formal buffer zone for the temples.

The existing context is predominantly characterised by vernacular buildings and buildings of traditional design and proportions including a two storey building with undeveloped land at the rear. The front of the site overlooks Triq il-Parsott.

Originally the Superintendence had expressed its concern on the development, calling for the uppermost floor to be removed from the proposal.

The application had obtained the clearance of the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, Heritage Malta  and the local UNESCO World Heritage Sites Technical Committee.

But in February 2023, in an email sent by Superintendent Kurt Farrugia, they informed the Planning Authority that UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre had requested a Heritage Impact Assessment which was never carried out.

Journalist Victor Borg, FAA coordinator Astrid Vella and photographer Daniel Cilia strongly objected to the development, warning that it sets a precedent for even more development around the heritage site.    

The application was presented by Emmanuel Farrugia, whose architect insisted that he always followed the advice of the heritage authorities through the planning process.