Tourism blighting Maltese towns, 19th century St Julian’s townhouse headed for demolition

One of the oldest townhouses on the border between Sliema and St Julian’s is being recommended for demolition after the Planning Authority gave its go-ahead

A recognisable milestone: the house atop the Kirxa hill and Old College Street
A recognisable milestone: the house atop the Kirxa hill and Old College Street

One of St Julian’s oldest buildings from the 19th century is set to be demolished to be replaced by a guest-house, after the Planning Authority’s planning directorate recommended the go-ahead.

The proposal is to demolish an existing townhouse on the Kirxa hill at the corner with old College Street and to construct a guesthouse of 10 rooms.

Objectors and conservationists were alarmed that the PA’s directorate suggested their objections were no longer valid after a new planning application supplanted an older version.

A photo from the 19th century shows how little the street has changed despite the onslaught of modern development.

“The building in question is an early townhouse attributing to St Julian’s historic heritage and distinctiveness and should be protected by virtue of its inherent value,” Flimkien ghal-Ambjent Ahjar told the PA.

It said the additional floors run counter to various planning policies. Likewise, the Sliema local council said it was contrary to the further development of houses into apartment blocks due to serious adverse effects that over-development was having on the quality of life of residents. “The concept of complete demolition of the present dwelling should be rethought.”

The council said it wants the building to retain the maximum two floors and receded floor height limit of the urban conservation area (UCA), and reminded the PA it is within a few metres from a Grade 2 scheduled building on Old College Street.

Another objection from the Sliema Heritage Society insisted that the site was of high cultural and architectural value. “It-Telgha tal-Kirxa is known to be one of the oldest streets in Sliema-St Julians and the dwellings which have largely survived along this steep climb are rare examples of typical Maltese vernacular architecture still extant in this part of Malta most likely dating to the early 19th century.”

The society said the house was worthy of restoration and rehabilitation, and not redevelopment, and said the house was the subject of various photographers and artists and is still considered as one of the most picturesque corners in the area.

The directorate – the case officer who recommended the permit – said the original planning application was republished for the change in description proposal. “Therefore, objection letters received before the republication are not relevant to the proposed development.”

The Design Advisory Committee and the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage did not object to the proposed development.

On Facebook, the Sliema Heritage Society said the house’s proposed demolition was an outrage. “The proposed destruction of what is one of Sliema-St Julian's oldest buildings along the historic Telgha tal-Kirxa has been recommended for approval after heritage NGOs representations were dismissed as invalid! PA1169/17 will see the complete demolition of this lovely building (the facades of which can be easily preserved) and the construction of a pseudo-vernacular replacement with two extra floors and use as guesthouse.

“Another barbaric case of destruction in the name of tourism. Very disappointing of the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage to endorse this... our society will fight this to the end, whilst pushing for more scheduling of threatened historic sites.”

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