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Zabbar council awaits permits to open wartime shelter

The proposed entrance to the WWII shelter and the light column at the rear at Misrah is-Sliem, Zabbar, designed by architect Lino Bianco. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

The proposed entrance to the WWII shelter and the light column at the rear at Misrah is-Sliem, Zabbar, designed by architect Lino Bianco. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

The Zabbar local council has, for some time, been working to restore and rehabilitate historical assets within its confines, including a large wartime shelter beneath Misrah is-Sliem.

What remains now is the go ahead from the Lands Department, to hand over the site to the council under the government's devolution policy, and the Malta Environment and Planning Authority's green light to build the necessary structure to serve as an entrance to the shelter.

The council had set up an ad hoc sub-committee to work with it on the rehabilitation of the war shelter, deputy mayor Robert Buhagiar said.

Detailed plans are on display at the local council's administrative building and may be viewed during normal office hours. The sub-committee has already given a thorough clean-up to the shelter for which the council has allocated Lm6,000.

It is the intention of the council to open the shelter for public viewing to show what the life of the Maltese was like during the war. This will be done through a commentary and an exhibition of furniture and other items found in the shelter during the cleaning operation. Electric lighting will also be installed.

Mr Buhagiar said the square has a long history dating back to the founding of Zabbar. During the early British era, it was a garden, Gnien il-Kmand, converted into the present square in the late 19th century. During WW II, vast tracts of shelters were hand hewn beneath the square to offer protection to the residents during air raids.

The former council had undertaken major works in the square, including the pedestrianisation of the area, complete with a patterned surface.

Mr Buhagiar said that since early last year, the current council embarked on the second phase of the project for Misrah is-Sliem, with the target of opening the shelters to the public, including tourists.

Architect Lino Bianco was asked to furnish a design for the opening of the shelter. The design of the entrance includes historical reference to shelter structures.

A former access to the shelter at the rear of the square is a rock hewn spiral staircase, now destroyed except for the shaft. This has been designed to serve as a light column.

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