Sometimes it can seem that Malta is being wrecked irreversibly.
With everything from scheduled buildings set for demolition to ODZ petrol stations to possible sites of archeological importance getting the construction treatment, it’s easy to lose track of what is being lost every month.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of nine areas that are especially at risk in 2018. Some of these places might not be with us in 2019, so enjoy them while you can – or, if you feel very strongly about it, join a group and get busy defending the land.
With special thanks to architect Tara Cassar from Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar.
1. Fort Salvatore, Kalkara
This monumental 18th century fort and its main gate, forming part of the Cottonera Lines have sadly been practically left in a state of abandonment with fragments slowly crumbling away as the decades roll on and those responsible for the care of this historic building of national importance allow it to fall to disarray.
FAA has carried out extensive research on the state of Fort Salvatore and has submitted an emergency call for preservation directly to the authorities.
Majestic Salvatore Gate crumbling away
2. Żebbug Square, Gozo
It may have once seemed ridiculous to imagine the traditional character of such a place being lost, firstly because it’s Gozo which has largely been spared of the construction frenzy, and secondly because it’s actually the very heart of the village where one often finds the oldest and most iconic buildings.
Well, things are changing in Gozo, and cranes are slowly moving in.
Not one but three separate vernacular buildings in the very core of Żebbug will be demolished to make way for a guest house, apartments and commercial store.
Basically, the very properties that make Żebbug Żebbug and the very same buildings that attract tourists to this beautiful village will be demolished to cater for tourism – and once the demolition of these properties is allowed, the rest will follow, as has happened in Malta, until the characteristic villages that we as citizens of Malta love, and that tourists actually come to visit, will simply be no more.
FAA had launched an online campaign against the proposed guest house resulting in over 500 objections being sent to the Planning Authority. Despite this, the application was approved. Din l-Art Helwa are now appealing the approved decision.
All 3 centre properties.. *poof*
3. Pieta’s Majestic Gardens
Developers are honing in on Pieta’s seafront properties. In need of restoration after having been neglected and forgotten for decades, developers are instead opting for their complete demolition and the eradication of their spectacular back gardens.
While groups like FAA support the regeneration of Pieta, it’s easy to see that what is happening is not regeneration but shortsighted capitalsation of the seafront. This will lead to the loss of these truly magnificent buildings and their luscious gardens that today provide a green lung for the community.
FAA will keep fighting for the protection of these gardens and adjoining properties, that if restored and developed sensibly could indeed allow the area to develop into one of the most exclusive and majestic neighbourhoods in the harbour region.
Pieta’s threatened majestic gardens as seen from above
4. Valletta’s Skyline
As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the thought of approving any development that would jeopardise Valletta’s prestigious title would seem unlikely. Well, in this boom, even the iconic national skyline is dispensable.
The high-rise boom mushrooming all over the island will result in a number of towers on the Tigne’ peninsula in Sliema set to hover over Valletta’s skyline when seen from across the Grand Harbour.
One of these towers, branded Townsquare, is currently being appealed by FAA together with other eNGOs for this very reason, and if stopped there may indeed be hope for this truly iconic landmark.
ENGOs photomontages from Kalkara showing the impact of the Townsquare Development in Sliema from across the harbour
5. Old Corner house (top right) on Triq il-Kirxa, St Julians
Environmental groups like FAA are fighting tooth and nail against the eradication of this town’s history through the proposed demolition of the Tal-Kirxa House .
This unique building and its surroundings had indeed quite miraculously made it so far without the threat of being bulldozed – sadly with development on overdrive there’s now an application for its demolition and replacement with a guest house.
The new property will be on 3 floors and basically imitate old forms. This may seem acceptable to some, but again just like the Żebbug case, one questions what is today’s tourism market seeking aside from sun and fun?
Often, it is authenticity – so why demolish a unique well-preserved heritage property that could itself be converted into a beautiful guest house only to replace it with a fake version of itself?
A surprisingly preserved street now sadly threatened by looming bulldozers
6. Tal Wej, Mosta
This picturesque site has long been on many developers wish-list but through perseverance and effective collaboration residents together with eNGOs have evaded its destruction… so far. This could change very soon.
A recent application for the removal of the top layer of soil for the purpose of what is being described as archeological studies has raised strong doubts about the applicant’s true intentions. Archeological groups, eNGOs and residents are calling on the applicant to justify why such an intervention is necessary when it goes against all principles of archeological practice?
The site is indeed an treasure trove dating back to the Bronze Age. Covered in cart ruts and described as an ancient burial ground, the cultural and historic value of this site can by no means be over-estimated.
And after having been left unaltered for centuries, if not millennia, the site is now an area of incredible ecological importance boasting flora and fauna protected under Maltese and European Legislation. Check this page out for more information.
7. Villa Giannini, Għaxaq
A 250 year-old Baroque garden and palazzo in Għaxaq could also be on the chopping block this year. The Planning Appeals Board has refused an application to develop the land – only to overturn it, and approve the development of 30 residential units spread over three isolated blocks in the garden.
The previous application had sought 18 residential units on each of the three floors, but the Planning Appeals Board had deemed this “excessive” and downsized the project from 54 apartments to a maximum of 30.
This project will take over 4,000 square meters of Baroque land
8. Bulebel farmland, Żejtun
Farmers in the Bulebel industrial zone have raised their voices in reaction to the possible extension of the industrial zone into rural land in the area.
One farmer, Lawrence Grima, said ““we have been here since our forefathers; we have potatoes and vines which I had to abandon due to the decision as I am not going to do useless work.”
Other farmers agreed with him, saying they were worries they would not be able to continue working as they had for years. Many farmers were told to leave their fields last July as they had no legal right to it.
“We have no title because they brought us in this state, considering us as a sort of squatters – we just took the land without permit. We have been in this farmland since our great-grandparents, some two hundred or two hundred and fifty years. Now what has to be done is done,” said Andrew Abela, another farmer.
9. Roxy Cinema
The 800-seater was a major part of Birkirkara’s nightlife back in the day, with its unique Art Deco style adding to the magic of cinema. However, an application from Portica Estates hopes to demolish the building to make way for offices, a community centre, garages, and apartments.
“It is a part of our architectural heritage, it is an example of Art Deco architecture which is comparatively rare on our islands and therefore should be protected,” said Raffealla Zammit, manager of the Gabriel Caruana Foundation in Birkirkara, to Lovin Malta.
If you’re sick of reading about demolition and want to take action, contact Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar. They’ll let you know how you can help through effective means that will contribute directly towards the joint effort needed to save Malta’s beautiful, unique and sadly often threatened heritage.