Fate of Pietà’s Villa Frere garden views hinges on board inspection

A proposed 10-storey hotel in Pietà adjacent to Giardino Zammitello will visually dominate views of the harbour town from Msida creek and Valletta

A proposed 10-storey hotel in Pietà adjacent to Giardino Zammitello will visually dominate views of the harbour town from Msida creek and Valletta, challenging the visual dominance of St Luke’s hospital and blocking views from the nearby Villa Frere gardens, a visual impact assessment reveals.

The project proposed by Landgate Limited, was revised following an outcry against the destruction of the historical Zammitello garden, and consists of the demolition of the existing buildings, the excavation and construction of a four-star hotel including pools and spa.

The landscaped gardens, including the existing tower, domed exedra and main parts of the elevated walkway, will be retained and restored.

But one of the gardens will still be obliterated to make way for the excavation of the car park while another elongated garden behind the domed exedra will also be destroyed.

The project was recommended for refusal by the Planning Authority’s case officer but on 3 December, the PA’s planning commission, chaired by Simon Saliba, decided to postpone a decision, which will be taken after a site inspection by the board.

The development is being proposed in the immediate vicinity of the scheduled Villa Frere and gardens. The Zammitello gardens are being proposed for scheduling by the Superintendence and the cultural heritage advisory committee.

The heritage NGO Friends of Villa Frere insist that the proposed building height will still grossly overpower Villa Frere, all but blocking the last vistas from the villa’s two main belvederes.

The PA case officer objected to the development, insisting that it will impact on sensitive historic environments including the gardens of Villa Frere and St Luke's Hospital.

Given the evident impact on views from and towards the gardens of Villa Frere, the Superintendence also objected to the mass and height of the proposed hotel.

The late 18th century garden once belonged to Giuseppe Nicola Zammit, a man of letters and a judge who served in official posts under the Order of St John and the British. Knighted in 1818, he was appointed in various prominent positions by governor Thomas Maitland.

Upon his death Maitland also commissioned a grand monument commemorating Zammit, which is found in the Upper Barrakka Gardens.

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