The eager attempt of Joseph Muscat’s personal lawyer, Pawlu Lia, to transform an 18th Century Palazzo in the heart of Valletta into a four-storey office block could have real, long-lasting effects on Valletta’s skyline, creating a dangerous precedent to raise buildings across the capital city’s historic streets.
Speaking to Lovin Malta, Din L-Art Ħelwa’s President Alex Torpiano was adamant that Valletta’s skyline must be preserved, adding that the city must be treated according to its UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
“We’ll be creating a dangerous precedent if we suddenly decided that Valletta’s skyline is not important and start adding floors to buildings,” Torpiano explained.
Din L-Art Ħelwa, Torpiano said, was in the process of filing an objection against the project, which is located on Old Bakery Street and is within an Urban Conservation Area.
“You are ruining the object you are trying to preserve,” he said.
Looking at visual impressions for the site does make for worrying reading, with the block imposingly standing two floors above any of the other buildings on Old Bakery Street.
The site has already seen an application approved in 2018 for a third-floor extension and a set-back fourth-floor extension.
However, an executable development permit was not issued after the project failed to meet the necessary compliance from the Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD).
The building is yet to be constructed, with the application now calling for an entire fourth floor, with sources alleging there are plans to increase this further, adding a fifth level.
The applicants have long justified the development due to a neighbouring block on Old Theatre Street, which itself stands two floors higher than the Old Bakery Street building. However, the site in question is a much more recent development and does not entirely destroy the visual symmetry along its street.
Questions must also be asked as to why a small law firm would actually require two more levels on the already large palazzo.
People can file objections up until 26th July 2019.
Besides being Muscat’s personal lawyer, Pawlu Lia is also the government’s representative on the Commission For The Administration Of Justice, which is responsible for disciplinary action against the judiciary and lawyers.
Lia has also been involved in many of the court cases involving the Labour Party and its exponents, most notably facing off against Adrian Delia in his bid to publish a full version of the Egrant Inquiry.
His daughter, Nadine, was recently cleared as a magistrate.