Superintendence expresses grave concern over Villa St Ignatius

Cultural heritage watchdog says plans will result in further demolition of Villa St Ignatius which has “undeniable architectural and historical value”

Villa St Ignatius, as of 4 December 2017 (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Villa St Ignatius, as of 4 December 2017 (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)

The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage has expressed “grave concern” for an application seeking to “to regularise unauthorised and damaging works already carried out on site” of Villa St Ignatius in St Julian’s.

The application proposes to cart away existing debris left by previous demolition works and to “dismantle the existing structure at ground and first floor level.”

Plans show that the rooms proposed to be demolished are in the same area of the villa targeted for demolition in illegal works last November, days after the early 19th-century building had been proposed for scheduling.

According to the cultural heritage watchdog this will result in further demolition of Villa St Ignatius which is described as having “undeniable architectural and historical value”.

Villa St Ignatius, in Scicluna Street, is part of a larger property which once housed one of the first Jesuits’ College in Malta, and which was mentioned as a landmark building as early as 1839.

The cultural heritage value of the property is such that the Superintendence had on 12 December 2017 recommended the property for scheduling.

The construction works were carried out by applicant Paul Gauci under the pretext of Dangerous Structure Order, a type of permit issued when a building is in danger of collapse. But the Superintendence insists that the works as carried out far exceeded “both the letter and the intent” of the Dangerous Structure Order.

The Superintendence has already issued successive Conservation and Protection Orders on 7 December 2017 to stop damaging works, and on 12 January 2018 to order the reversal of said damaging works.

Rather than sanctioning the works and completing the demolition, the Superintendence is insisting on the reversal of damaging works and has asked the architect to present a report aimed at stabilising the structure and to recover the material needed for the reconstruction of the demolished structure.

In a parallel application presented in April owner Paul Gauci has also applied to create a “public square” cutting right through the remaining part of the historic building.

The PA is still facing court action from Din L-Art Ħelwa over its failure to act when notified of the demolition, instead issuing a statement claiming that the works were in line with the court order and permit conditions. A court has already ruled that the demolition of a large part of the historic landmark had violated a previous court order.

The Court registrar was even asked to initiate contempt of court proceedings against the PA’s enforcement chief, developer Paul Gauci and his architect Stephen Vancell. Vancell is an employee of EMDP, a company owned by Mariello Spiteri, who also sits on the PA’s planning commission.

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