Malta’s heritage is being sold for private speculative gain, NGOs have warned in the wake of the Planning Authority’s decision to conditionally approve the construction of a six-storey hotel on Saqqajja Hill despite a lack of geological surveys, which critics warn will have a devastating impact on the entrance to Mdina.
“Malta’s politicians are repeating the same mistake as the Excelsior Hotel intruding on Valletta’s bastions, and like the Excelsior this will be a scar on our heritage landscape that future generations will forever curse.”
“The eNGOs are extremely concerned about what will happen when the buildings are pulled down and the rock cutting starts within the glacis of the scheduled (Grade 1) Fortifications of Mdina, which are notoriously unstable. In spite of a recent major project to shore them up, the extensive excavations proposed pose a serious threat to the stability of the bastions,” Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar and Moviment Graffitti said in a statement.
Yesterday, the Planning Board approved the project with seven votes in favour and three against it. They approved a non-executable permit for the site that will be confirmed if the applicant conducts the necessary geological and other studies on the area.
The five-star hotel, which will replace the old Tattingers nightclub, will require deep excavation on a, particularly vulnerable and historic site. Mdina, which is built on clay, has had to be buttressed twice to avoid sloping. Last year, a part of the road on Saqqaja hill collapsed, raising further concerns about the geological fragility of the area.
NGOs also noted that there was little doubt that archaeology will be uncovered.
“A MEPA Director had in the past stated that conditions attached to permits were simply a screen since MEPA did not have the resources to ensure that the conditions were respected. To declare that archaeological monitoring will take place after the permit is granted, simply means that the findings will be recorded, covered up, built over or destroyed.”
“That is, if they are identified at all. Bulldozers and heavy excavators are not going to halt when valuable historical remnants are uncovered, Once the permit is given there’s no stopping the construction,” they said.
The NGOs also claimed that studied objections were simply ignored by the PA Board, noting that the presentation mentioned a railway tunnel even though there was no mention of it on the application documents.
“The project has the clearance of the Lands Authority, which transferred the public land to the politically-connected hotel owner mysteriously behind closed doors, with no public call in a fair tender process.”
“The driving force behind the hotel proposal, the owners of the former Tattingers club with their long history of enforcements on that very land, are handed a lucrative new lease for a further profit spree, at the cost of Maltese cultural heritage. The heritage of Malta is yet again sold for private speculative gain,” the statement read.
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