Bahrija villa gets green light despite ERA objections

Villa approved by PA planning commission thanks to controversial rural policy permitting reconstruction of countryside ruins as villas

The proposed villa at Bahrija
The proposed villa at Bahrija

A brand new two-storey villa set over 165sq.m has been approved in the picturesque Tilliera area, a Natura 2000 site, instead of a 45sq.m building despite objections from the Environment and Resources Au-thority and the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage.

The villa, proposed by Maria Baldacchino, was approved by the Planning Commission on the basis of the controversial rural policy permitting the reconstruction of countryside ruins as villas, if a proof of previous residence is presented.

The PA recently announced a revision of the rural policy, but permits are still being issued on the basis of this policy which remains in place.

In this particular case, no doubts have been raised on the previous use of the building as a dwelling but objections were presented by both the ERA and the Superintendence, due to the sensitive location of the de-velopment in an Area of High Landscape value, an Area of Archaeological Importance, and a Natura 2000 site.

The PA’s planning directorate had originally opposed the development. To refuse the permit, the planning directorate invoked a provision in the rural policy guidelines, stating that any extension to an existing building outside development zones must be of “a compatible design and must respect the rural context”.

Moreover, the swimming pool was deemed in breach of another provision of the policy, which bans such development in protected archaeological areas like this one.

But subsequently, the PA’s planning commission chaired by architect Elizabeth Ellul, signalled its intention to approve the development as it complied with existing policy. The commission also ordered a reduction of the villa’s floorspace and recommended that the pool be raised above ground level instead of being sunken into the ground, to avoid excavations in the archaeologically sensitive area.

The developers presented new plans, reducing the floor space at first floor level by 35sq.m, and the total floor area from 200sq.m to 165sq.m, as well as photomontages showing how the new structures will impact the surrounding rural area.

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