Save Żebbuġ’s Village Square (Objection to PA 05232/16)

Dear FAA members and lovers of the Maltese Islands,

The Planning Authority has received an application for the destruction of two pristine vernacular dwellings on the church square of Żebbuġ (Gozo), one of Malta and Gozo’s few villages that still retain their original charm. These buildings were designated as Category B+ status, because of their particular contribution to the character of this Urban Conservation Area, secondary only to the parish church, and should be safeguarded.

This application to make room for a hotel, along with many other similar applications currently sprouting all across the Maltese Islands, are sadly undermining the very purpose of Urban Conservation Areas, as applicants keep requesting the complete demolition of vernacular properties in the heart of our village cores, despite them having clearly been recognised by the Planning Authority as an integral part of our national heritage.

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This onslaught can no longer go on!

We urge you to object to this application by simply filling in your name and email below. This will send an objection in your name to the Planning Authority and Superintendent of Cultural Heritage with minimal work on your part. The email will also be sent Deborah Schembri (Perm Sec for Planning), Anton Refalo (Gozo Minister) and other MPs elected on the district, and the Żebbuġ Local Council.

*****FULL TEXT OF OBJECTION*****

I the undersigned object to the proposed works pertaining to PA 05232/16, at 28B & 30, Triq Il- Knisja, Zebbug, Gozo, for the reasons listed hereunder.

 1)      The two properties being proposed to be demolished, form part of only a handful of other properties in the village core of Zebbug recognized by the competent authority as worthy of Category B+ status, given their particular contribution to the character of this UCA, secondary only to the parish church, and should therefore be safeguarded accordingly.

2)      This application runs counter to the island’s development guidelines as set out through the Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development (SPED), by calling for the unjustified demolition of  our cultural built heritage

 3)      The application is in conflict with the SPED’s fundamental aim which is to serve as a road map towards reduced carbon emissions, and to help reduce the rate and impact of climate change – demolition of existing traditional buildings, and their subsequent replacement with poorly designed modern imitations, is an unsustainable practice, especially given the scarcity of our local stone, and can under no reasonable interpretation be considered as pro-environmental or energy efficient.

4)      The proposed ‘possible streetscape’ presented by applicant, runs counter to SPED U02.3 and UO2.4

  1. i) The applicant is assuming an erroneous ‘possible’ complete build-up of the streetscape of up to 11.40m, on the basis of the local plans which no longer applies to UCA’s since as of 2015, with the introduction of the SPED, the maximum permissible building height’s must be derived from “a context driven approach”. None of the buildings adjacent to the site in question are at the same height as that being proposed and therefore cannot be approved.
  2. ii) Furthermore, if all facades were to be built-up to the ‘maximum height’ of 11.40m the whole historic streetscape would be destroyed as it would morph into an uncharacteristically uniform 2-dimensional mass, running counter SPED policy 4, which specifically promotes the protection of our historic skylines from inappropriate developments, and there adverse effects.

5)      Existing architectural features are NOT depicted clearly in the photomontages forming part of application – such as the portico internal façade visible from the street. Omissions of this kind will result in the Planning Authority’s failure to correctly assess the buildings in question, and cannot be considered acceptable.

Given the above, the refusal of this application would be necessary in order for the competent authority to demonstrate its adherence to the SPED and truly ensure that each individual decision taken by said authority forms part of the holistic vision as set out by the document for the Maltese Islands.

I strongly object to this application and call on the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, to reconsider its position, given that as highlighted above: (1) the site in question is in fact of cultural value, as clearly listed by the Planning Authority in the local plans, and therefore worthy of retention; and (2) that the proposed application does not comply with policies and guidelines relating to development in an UCA, and should therefore be refused.

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