Sliema’s Depiro Street parapets face the axe

Characteristic Depiro Street townhouses earmarked for five-storey apartment block with the present parapet level substitued by garage entrances.

This side of Depiro Street was built after the turn of the century; the rest of the street right between the government school and these townhouses was once a large field that has since been replaced by apartments for the British services, a large hotel in the 1980s
This side of Depiro Street was built after the turn of the century; the rest of the street right between the government school and these townhouses was once a large field that has since been replaced by apartments for the British services, a large hotel in the 1980s

The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage has already shot down a plan to drop one of Sliema’s most characteristic row of townhouses, on Depiro Street, as an “unacceptable intensification of development”.

The row of townhouses – a 70-metre long row of two-storey houses built on a raised plinth – are being proposed for demolition to make way for a six-storey apartment block.

Known as the ‘parapets’ area of Depiro Street, which runs from Sliema’s Dingli Street down to Manuel Dimech Street, the houses have staircases leading to the raised parapet entrances, which would be replaced by garages and ground-floor doorways according to the proposed plans. Four full storeys and a penthouse level are being proposed above it.

The new six-storey building will sit between an existing development of four storeys to one side, and the remaining traditional townhouses, having only three storeys on the other side.

But nearly 60 objections have already been presented by residents irked by the proposed development.

And the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage said the development would create an “undeniable and negative impact both on the property and on the streetscapes within the Urban Conservation Area”, and erode “the cultural significance of the streetscape and existing character of the village core”.

The plan for the townhouses is to build a six-storey apartment block
The plan for the townhouses is to build a six-storey apartment block

The townhouses date back to the early 1900s and are located within Sliema’s UCAs where complete demolitions are not normally permitted.

The buildings are characterised by traditional Maltese architectural features such as wooden doors and closed timber balconies, wrought iron fanlights, coloured glass windows and traditional roofing structures.

The plans, presented by property developer John Bonavia, foresee the replacement of the balconies with traditional timber balconies within the facade design. The 'parapets' are included in the design of the first floor.

One resident objecting to the development expressed his frustration at seeing “old Sliema” being “taken over by unrelenting development.”

“I have seen many original Sliema residents, whose families have been living here for generations, moving to other areas because they can’t stand the noise, the dust, and the unsightly view of so many cranes.”

The resident called on the Planning Authority to take a look at how residents are being affected by the unnecessary onslaught of this large-scale “destruction”.

The PA recently gave protection to 52 houses on Stella Maris Street and Capua Street in Sliema in a sign that the authorities are finally heeding discontentment at over-development unleashed by the 2006 extension of building zones, and aggravated by design guidelines approved in 2015.

Yet one of the part-owners of the Depiro Street houses, David Falzon, has remarked in a comment to the Times that the houses are also surrounded by apartments.

Falzon said the houses have been owned by over 50 heirs, and that it had taken the law courts “20 years and a charge of €200,000 to come up with a solution”, with their only option being to sell the houses by court auction.

Since the owners could not sell the houses individually with tenants in them, they resolved to sell the houses to a developer, who will grant each tenant ownership of a brand new apartment.

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