MP’s petition calls for awareness over Manikata chapel development

Nationalist MP Ivan Castillo requests Petition Committee MPs to ensure changes to planning policies which no longer make sense are addressed on case-by-case basis

The Manikata chapel as it stands today (Photo: Ivan Castillo)
The Manikata chapel as it stands today (Photo: Ivan Castillo)

The Nationalist MP Ivan Castillo has filed a parliamentary petition calling for signatures backing his call to stop a development next to a 104-year-old chapel in Manikata.

The petition calls on MPs from the Petitions Committee to ensure changes to existing planning policies which no longer make sense are addressed on a case-by-case basis and ensure that good neighbourhood development in this case prevails.

Images of the newly built apartment block towering over the old Manikata chapel sparked outrage online, but will now be surrounded by apartment blocks on both sides. A planning application shows that the applicant, Alex Tanti, is planning, “internal alterations to existing building, retaining existing facade; and construction of ground floor garage and maisonette, six apartments and two overlying penthouses.”

Upset about the Manikata chapel? Curia, heritage watchdog dropped objections to the flats in 2018

Castillo said the extensive development will continue to have a negative impact on the newly restored chapel in Manikata located in Triq il-Knisja l-Qaddima.

“This may also cause material damage to the chapel which is an integral part of the heritage of this beautiful locality. There is also the issue of over development in this area, where Manikata has now lost its traditional character, something we should fight to retain and not have to fight to save,” the MP said.

The chapel, built in 1920, was recently restored by the government in 2019, described by the minister for heritage Owen Bonnci in 2019 an an intervention to “make culture and heritage more accessible while encouraging better preservation and application of our heritage.”

“I would expect that political responsibility dictates that we practice what we preach, so to ensure the preservation of this gem, this request (must be) refused,” Castillo said. “One side of the Chapel has already been developed, having engulfed this gem, now a development of the same magnitude on the remaining, adjacent side would completely dwarf the Chapel, completely losing the initial aim of its restoration.”

In 2022, MaltaToday had reported that, the Curia had had dropped its earlier objections to the development following “an understanding” reached with the developer.

In fact in 2018, an architect representing the Curia had warned that the new building will “overpower” and “engulf” the chapel and the open space around it. The architect had also described the design as being “blank and dull.”

However, the case officer report referred to a second letter from the Archdiocese of Malta stating that following changes to plans “it finds no objections to the current proposal.”

Similarly, the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage had originally expressed concern on the demolition of vernacular structures on the site and the “extensive development abutting a significant chapel, which would have a negative impact on views of the chapel and may cause material damage.”

But after analysing a 3-D image of the proposal which was never published on the PA’s public information system, the SCH gave its go-ahead, after concluding that the proposed development will integrate the facade of the old building, while the proposed volumes were “terraced so as to mitigate visual impact on the chapel”.