Heritage watchdog warns Valletta’s UNESCO status undermined by Tigné 40-storey hotel

Din l-Art Helwa warns that proposed 40-storey hotel towering over Valletta when viewed from Kalkara will undermine historical views which earned capital city its UNESCO certified world heritage status.

DLH says the new tower’s “overpowering, dominating presence will be difficult to escape, and will be a constant obstacle to the people of Madliena, St. Andrews, Sliema, Kappara, Gzira, Msida, Ta’ Xbiex, Senglea, Birgu, Cospicua, Kalkara, Mdina, and Rabat”.
DLH says the new tower’s “overpowering, dominating presence will be difficult to escape, and will be a constant obstacle to the people of Madliena, St. Andrews, Sliema, Kappara, Gzira, Msida, Ta’ Xbiex, Senglea, Birgu, Cospicua, Kalkara, Mdina, and Rabat”.

One of Malta’s foremost heritage watchdogs has warned that a proposed 40-storey hotel in Tigné will destroy an iconic view which “has delighted and captivated the imagination for hundreds of years, being the subject of innumerable landscape paintings and known the world over.”

Din l-Art Helwa warned that the view of Valletta which earned it the title of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, will be compromised for the sake of a building “which we can very well do without”, the national trust said in a reaction to photomontages showing the 40-storey hotel towering over Valletta when viewed from Bighi in Kalkara.

The hotel is being proposed by Gap Holdings, the construction company that built the Fort Cambridge apartments.

In 2014 the Rehabilitation Projects Office (RPO), the government office responsible for protecting Valletta’s UNESCO World Heritage status, had warned that the inclusion of Tigné among the sites identified for high rise development risked endangering  its unique status.

“Tigné is within the buffer zone and immediate context of Valletta and a significant change in its character will severely affect that of Valletta itself – highly threatening its World Heritage status,” the report presented to the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, said.

MEPA replied to the RPO’s submission by pointing out that high buildings already exist in Tigné, which has been designated as a commercial hub.

The government had recently refused to include a proposal made by DLH to protect  historical and natural landscapes in the recently approved Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development.

Instead the SPED includes a clause stating that “development within historic sites is to be carried out in such a manner as to ensure that the historic sites’ skyline is not adversely affected.”

This means that historic views like those impacted by the proposed 40-storey hotel are not protected.

DLH is objecting to the proposed hotel describing it as “totally unsuited to the tiny size of Malta” noting that  “its overpowering, dominating presence will be difficult to escape, and will be a constant obstacle to the people of Madliena, St. Andrews, Sliema, Kappara, Gzira, Msida, Ta’ Xbiex, Senglea, Birgu, Cospicua, Kalkara, Mdina, and Rabat”.

According to DLH the negative impact will be on a national scale, as the tower will be seen from practically all areas of Malta.

“This will not only change the character of our island for ever from now on, giving the impression of living in one big city, and compounding the effects of overcrowding and overdevelopment, but will ruin the only psychologically redeeming factor of living on a small island; that of having the “illusion” of living in a larger space, by having unobstructed viewpoints of infinity”.

For DLH the constant presence of the proposed tower will be a reminder of the physical limitations of the actual size of Malta.

DLH also questioned whether studies are taking in consideration the economic effect it will have on other hotels in Sliema.

“Does it make sense to build something new, and in so doing, endanger previously existing businesses, at such a cost to the wellbeing of the residents of Sliema?” DLH asked.

“Does the study take into consideration the economic effect it will have on other hotels in Sliema? Does it make sense to build something new, and in so doing, endanger previously existing businesses, at such a cost to the wellbeing of the residents of Sliema?”

The NGO said the severity of the impact the tower will have on the Maltese people called for a national consensus, “as was recommended by MEPA’s own advisor Prof. Ali, who was brought over to assess the suitability of high rise buildings in Malta, in 2010.”

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