Updated | New buildings in Gozo obliged to have stone facades in first planning policy piloted by Clint Camilleri

Gozo and Planning Minister Clint Camilleri says stone facades for all new buildings in Gozo will help retain the traditional character of villages

New buildings in Gozo will be obliged to have stone facades
New buildings in Gozo will be obliged to have stone facades

Updated at 12:31pm with MDA reaction

New buildings in Gozo will need to have a facade made from Maltese stone, according to a policy that will come into force shortly.

It is one of the first policy decisions taken by Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri since being handed the planning portfolio last month.

In an interview with MaltaToday, Camilleri said he has directed the Planning Authority to issue a circular to this effect.

The policy will require new buildings to have a facade made out of stone. It will also apply to the backside of a building if this overlooks an ODZ area.

Camilleri said the policy aims to create buildings that are in tune with traditional architectural characteristics of Gozitan villages.

He agreed with concerns raised by Gozitan mayors on the overdevelopment Gozo has experienced but attributed this to the economic progress the island has experienced over the past decade.

Camilleri insisted the starting point in 2013 was an island with no investment, high unemployment and young people wanting to leave.

“The Labour government invested in the island and this encouraged people to invest in their land… today unemployment is virtually non-existent and Gozo has a working population of 17,000 with seven out of 10 employed in the private sector,” Camilleri said.

He added that it was better to talk about and address the problems created by “excess” rather than the “nothingness” of the past.

The new policy, he insisted, would be one way of making new buildings visually pleasing, an issue Camilleri believes is a major concern for people.

On his relationship with environmental NGOs, Camilleri said he has a positive disposition to meet all stakeholders. He added he has good relations with many NGOs, especially Gozitan ones.

“I only have problems with one NGO [BirdLife],” he insisted. The minister is responsible for regulating hunting and has often been criticised by BirdLife of accommodating hunters.

Camilleri rejected suggestions he will give developers free rein, insisting rule, policies and laws are there for all to abide by.

MDA praises new policy

Reacting to the news, the Malta Development Association (MDA) praised the policy, saying that it represents a crucial aspect of a broader vision for sustainable development and cultural preservation on the island.

"The imposition of stone facades in new buildings, as part of the government's vision for Gozo, demonstrates a comprehensive approach to preserving the island's architectural heritage while fostering economic growth and benefitting the community," the MDA said.

The development lobby further stated that while the policy mandates stone facades, flexibility should be allowed to propose alternative materials in certain localities, provided they maintain visual and aesthetic harmony with the surroundings.