NGOs say planning authorities endangering Valletta’s status as UNESCO World Heritage Site

Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar and the Sliema Residents Association slams PA’s approval of ‘illegally built structure’ along the Tigné coast

Valletta (File photo)
Valletta (File photo)

NGOs have slammed planning authorities for endangering Valletta’s status as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar and the Sliema Residents Association condemn the fact that the Planning Commission and the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, the very authorities responsible for safeguarding Malta's heritage, have shamefully endangered Valletta’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site when, with the blessing of the SCH,” the NGOs said in a statement.

The NGOs were referring to the PA’s approval of the request for the sanctioning of “an illegally built structure” along the Tigné coast in an area of High Landscape Value.

The Valletta Management Plan calls for the safeguarding of the views and vistas of Valletta, and the Valletta buffer zone is being created to safeguard such views, they said. “Yet this permit was approved in spite of both the Superintendence and developers’ architect admitting that this structure has a negative impact on the views of Valletta and the other Grade 1 structures in the area such as Fort Manoel. Clearly the project violates the clause that it is not to rise above existing street level; on the right-hand-side, the height of the structure completely obliterates views of Valletta.”

The SCH stated that the impact is insignificant while the developers’ architect claimed that the structure ‘does not excessively break the view from the promenade.’ “Whether the impact is significant or not excessive is subjective; clearly the structure’s impact on the views is a negative one and not positive.”

Furthermore, the Planning Board had imposed the condition that the structure’s footprint was not to be increased in size as originally approved by PA 4590/19 on the 11 June 2020 and this was to be included in a public deed to be signed between the PA and the developers.

“After four years we learn that the public deed was never signed. When this clause in permit PA 4590/19 was pointed out, Martin Camilleri, Environment Planning Commission (EPC) Chairman hastened to get the permit approved in violation of the condition. Clearly, some developers carry more weight than UNESCO,” they said. “This approval has created ugly precedents. The Planning Board itself rightly deferred approval of the Manoel Island project as it lies within the proposed Valletta buffer zone, yet the lesser Environment Planning Commission decided differently. This opens the possibility for further developments all along the coast of Sliema, Gzira, Ta’ Xbiex and Pietà, as each individual development will not be significant but their cumulative effect would be disastrous to the views of Valletta’s iconic World Heritage fortifications.”