The owner of Villa Barbaro, in Tarxien has formally cautioned the planning authority about "the serious threat" facing the heritage site as a result of two applications to carry out construction works next to it.

In a judicial letter filed in the First Hall of the Civil Court, Marquis Antony Cremona-Barbaro noted that his residential home, Villa Barbaro, is a Grade I heritage site designated in the National Protective Inventory as being of outstanding architectural and historical interest, and, therefore, subject to the highest level of protection.

This historic country villa, standing in its own extensive formal gardens and dating mainly to the 16th and 17th century but parts of which are also mediaeval, features in the Urban Conservation Area and was, moreover, one of the few historic buildings protected under the Antiquities Ordinance way back in 1925.

The Marquis, a founder member of the recently-formed Historic Houses Association of Malta, has warned Mepa that if the applications were to be upheld, as at present proposed, they would have a highly detrimental negative impact on the visual and aesthetic integrity of the villa and its gardens, disturbing in an unacceptable manner their setting and causing them to lose their unique intrinsic character.

The judicial letter goes on to add that such an eventuality would not only be seriously prejudicial to the historic and cultural heritage but would run counter to the principles rightly accepted and applied by Mepa itself in the recent case of Villa Bologna and its gardens in Attard and that of the Lija Belvedere. In fact, as reported in The Times of August 13, 2008, Mepa scheduled the area behind Villa Bologna "as a buffer zone to conserve the clear vistas from the villa's gardens".

It would not only be grossly unreasonable but also and especially an illegal discrimination if the planning authority, which protected Villa Bologna by limiting the height of the nearby buildings in relation to that of the villa's boundary wall, were not to afford a similar protection to Villa Barbaro, which was scheduled much earlier and, like Villa Bologna, in the highest grade, Grade I, the judicial letter says.

The Marquis reminded Mepa that such discrimination, if it were to occur, would entitle him to take the appropriate legal action against the regulator under the applicable provisions of both the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Moreover, the fact that it was Mepa itself, which, several years ago, had scheduled this heritage site on its own initiative, justified the owner in looking up to the regulator itself to afford its fullest protection to the heritage site without his needing to remind it that this was also, after all, its public duty in the national interest.

Dr Cremona-Barbaro concluded his judicial letter by calling on Mepa to do its duty and apply to Villa Barbaro the protective principles already applied by it to Villa Bologna and this by introducing a buffer zone around it, limiting the height of new construction to that of the villa's boundary wall (which was already the subject of a formal request to Mepa by architect Carmel Cacopardo acting on the Marquis' behalf). In particular with regard to the two applications in question, the owner also called on Mepa not to permit any new constructions that in any part exceeded the height of the boundary wall.

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