Unesco concerns at City Gate ‘resolved’
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Unesco concerns at City Gate ‘resolved’

Unesco’s concerns about Valletta’s World Heritage status have been “practically resolved”, with the capital’s status as a city of Outstanding Universal Value once again cemented in certainty, according to Parliamentary Secretary for Culture José Herrera.

Dr Herrera said the main problem was a lack of communication, with many of the agency’s requests for information having gone unanswered since 2012.

Last year, Times of Malta had reported Unesco’s concerns about the impact of the City Gate Project on Valletta’s World Heritage status.

The agency had confirmed it intended to send over a team of experts to assess the potential impact of the project on the city and its Outstanding Universal Value.

Dr Herrera said that Unesco has now professed itself satisfied with the observations made by the Maltese government and has consequently withdrawn its plans to send over the assessment team.

Among the concerns appeased, the government has reassured Unesco that all metal structures fitted into the open theatre are completely reversible.

The main problem was a lack of communication

Concerns regarding the new parliament were mollified when the government presented detailed reports on the excavations carried out beneath and it explained that the building was completely detached from St James Cavalier.

Among the other worries about Valletta were the two-storey extension to the law courts house and the relocation of the flea market to Ordnance Street.

“Both the location and the situation of individual stalls is totally reversible so that there will be no obvious damage to the Outstanding Value of the Valletta World Heritage Site,” Dr Herrera said, quoting from a report prepared by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS).

Other issues which have been resolved include the Master Gunner’s Quarters and the Saluting Battery.

Conservationist NGO Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna had sought to rebuild what used to be the Master Gunner’s quarters, a little room that used to sit just outside the entrance to the Upper Barrakka Gardens’ saluting battery, turning it into part of a paid-for historical attraction encompassing the saluting battery and the Lascaris war rooms.

The move was contested by Martin Baron, whose small café is set to be demolished.

Outside the city, concerns regarding development near the Ta’ Ħaġrat Temples, which is recognised as a Unesco World Heritage Site along with several other Megalithic temples, were also quelled.

Malta has also submitted a management plan for Valletta and the megalithic temples which were requested by Unesco in 2005. The Cabinet is expected to approve the plans so that the two documents are adopted as tools to safeguard and preserve the sites.

Malta’s ambassador to Unesco Joe Vella Gauci said that a National World Heritage Sites Steering Committee has been set up to work specifically on the Maltese islands’ world heritage sites.

Studies were under way to designate new sites to be included in the World Heritage list, such as Mdina and the Citadel in Gozo.

Studies are also being conducted for the possible inclusion of non-tangible assets such as the Maltese language, Maltese feasts and the 15th century poem Il Cantilena.

Dr Herrera said that a number of activities will be held in 2015 to mark the 50th anniversary of Malta’s membership of Unesco.

Unesco had been worried about the impact of the City GateProject on Valletta’s World Heritage status. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

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