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Residents Up In Arms Over Planned ‘Pencil’ Apartment Block In Terraced House Birkirkara Street

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Residents of Triq San Alwigi in Birkirkara have voiced their dismay at a decision by the Planning Authority to approve a permit for the development of a five-story apartment block.

“This new development or eyesore doees not respect the character and beauty of the street and leave a front garden like the other houses on the same street. What is the point of having a Planning Authority if it cannot even get a simple decision like this right? To grant the developer the right to build on the front garden and ruin the whole piazza is truly beyond belief,” one resident told Lovin Malta.

The site, formerly a terraced house, has been demolished with work on the apartment block already underway. 

While the proposed development is not technically against planning policies, residents have argued that the new building’s design will contrast sharply with the rest of the streetscape. 

All of the houses along the street have a patio at the front of the building, but the proposed development will not. The development has even caught the eye of former Finance Minister Tonio Fenech, who writing on decried the uglification of Malta. 

“The entire square is filled with buildings with a front garden, but the Planning Authority decided that it is OK for this building to do away with the front garden and allow the building to extend to the pavement,” Fenech wrote. “Can you imagine how four storeys and a penthouse will look?” 

Fenech had harsh words for the project’s architect and developers, who he accused of “not caring” about “destroying the streetscape and environment of the square” for their financial gain. 

“Malta is becoming ugly, can we not see it?” Fenech said. “Time will come when we will pay a heavy price for this greed.”

A resident also spoke to Lovin about how the development will transform the area, leaving his elderly mother with a view of a four-storey wall on her veranda. 

“Misrah San Alwigi has been one of the nicest areas in Balzan for decades. Apart from the garden from which its name derives, another attraction for this area has been the relative uniformity and consistency of the buildings designed. The buildings which largely date from the 1970s and early 1980s have a self-imposed front garden.”

“This was a time when Malta had no Planning Authority and little formal building regulations, and yet, new houses were built over a 15 year period with the same frontage. This enabled neighbours to enjoy some private space to indulge in gardening, converse with neighbours and build relationships to sustain the local community.”

“Malta has ‘progressed’ since and now boasts of a significant hi-tech multi-million euro budget organisation, known as the Planning Authority. The result of this progress: my elderly mother who has lived in this house for 50 years will now walk into her front garden or look out from her veranda and have her entire view walled off by a 4 storey high block of apartments.”

“Our neighbours on the other side of this development have the same issue as they cannot see anything on their right side of their veranda except a wall staring back at them.”

Speaking during an interview on Xarabank last month, Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia acknowledged that “no one enjoys” seeing such development, proposing instead a discussion on a comprehensive development plan which would mean that applicants would only be able to add more storeys to their buildings if the entire street agreed to do the same.

“I’d like to see a more mature discussion about development in this country, not just people saying how ugly buildings are but finding out ways to change the situation,” Farrugia had said.

This would obviously be easier said than done, as it would mean that people who are in a position to develop their property are prevented from doing so until everyone else in the street agrees to do so. 

The ministry is currently reforming the country’s Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development with the aim of finding a solution to ensure people have a right to develop their land while respecting the surrounding environment.

What do you make of this? 

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