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Development near oldest building in St Paul's Bay refused

Ta’ Tabibu farmhouse, originally the Dejma watch tower.

Ta’ Tabibu farmhouse, originally the Dejma watch tower.

The environment NGO Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar has welcomed a Mepa decision refusing a development permit which would have featured building close to the foreshore at Triq it-Tonn, St Paul's Bay.

The site is an Out of Development Zone, an Area of Ecological Importance and Site of Scientific Importance very close to the ta' Tabibu farmhouse, FAA said.

It dates back to the 14th-15th Century when it was a Dejma (militia) guard tower providing the only defence for the bay for some 200 years, before the Wignacourt Tower was built.

As such it formed part of Malta's early network of fortifications and is considered to be the oldest surviving building in St Paul's Bay.

"Lovers of Maltese heritage will be delighted that this site, as well as the unique flora and fauna of the area, now no longer risk being engulfed by development," FAA said.

It also welcomed MEPA's refusal of a fifth application to build several villas with pools in the gardens of a large townhouse at Triq il-Kbira, Balzan.

"This development would have impacted yet another of the beautiful gardens and green lungs for which this area is known. The granting of this permit would have also overthrown the principle of protected Green Enclaves, leading to the building up of other protected enclaves," FAA said.

It called for the scheduling of such buildings due to their deteriorating condition.

"In buying such properties for the development opportunities of their large old gardens, developers are not being made aware of the preservation obligations they are entering into. It is rarely mentioned that MEPA has the legal power to order owners of scheduled properties to carry out basic maintenance where that is lacking. Failing this, MEPA can carry out those works and bill the owners, however this obviously involves an initial outlay and given MEPA's present budgetary constraints, such an outlay has become almost impossible, encouraging the further neglect of scheduled properties such as Villa Guardamangia, Alhambra and Australia Hall in Pembroke."

FAA said it appreciated the announcement of financial grants to assist owners of scheduled properties in the last two budgets, however these never materialised.

Such assistance should be forthcoming, both for the protection of heritage, and to encourage owners who understandably struggle under the weight of preserving scheduled properties, FAA insisted.

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