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Villa Mekrech gardens retain protection, despite building permit

The Mepa board this afternoon rejected an application to de-schedule the gardens of Villa Mekrech in Ghaxaq.

The de-scheduling had been requested by a developer who had been given a building permit for part of the site.

The gardens are split in two parts: the formal part, that is the garden proper, and the informal, which in the past was used as the vegetable and kitchen garden.

Mepa came under harsh criticism in 2012 after it approved a full development permit for the building of three blocks of flats, each two storeys high, in part of Villa Mekrech’s informal garden.

The full permit for the construction of the residential units was granted in October 2012. In July 2013, the planning board decided that the entire property of Villa Mekrech’s gardens merited Grade 2 scheduling because the informal garden “was an integral part of the contextual value of this property”.

Environment group Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar (FAA) welcomed the Mepa decision.

"The Mepa Board’s stand was particularly laudable, given the possibility that the developer could sue Mepa," even though the FAA said, it had always maintained that the permit was not valid due to the fact that incorrect information was submitted by the applicant.

"It is therefore to the credit of this Mepa Board that it has shown that misguided permits can be prevented from destroying an important element of our national architectural heritage."

It recalled that as part of its campaign to save this heritage site, it had commissioned an independent report from restoration architect Edward Said who confirmed that “At Villa Mekrech there is a marriage of Baroque formality with the quintessentially English irregularity reminiscent of Brown and Repton. [If the scheduling is overturned] then one of Malta’s finest, if not the finest example of an English landscape garden will be lost.”

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