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WWII pillbox is not worth preserving, cultural watchdog says

The “first-rate” wartime defence post in San Ġwann. Photo: Steve Zammit Lupi

The “first-rate” wartime defence post in San Ġwann. Photo: Steve Zammit Lupi

The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage has raised no objections to the destruction of a World War II pillbox in San Ġwann to make way for a new apartment block.

Heritage NGOs, the San Ġwann local council and residents have all been vocal in their calls for the “first-rate” wartime defence post in Sir Emvin Cremona Street to be conserved and scheduled, citing its historical and heritage importance.

However, in its reply when consulted by the Planning Authority, the SCH said it had visited the site and found the structure to be in a “dilapidated and unstable condition”. “The vernacular structure/pillbox is not of such cultural heritage value as to warrant its preservation,” it said, raising no objection to the application.

According to Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna, which is among a sizeable list of objectors to the development, the pillbox was built by Royal Engineers early in the war as part of the third line of defence from the coast. All such posts were designed as bomb-proof stand-alone structures meant to resist capture if caught in an air drop zone during an invasion. They were intended to act in unison with other structures to stop or slow an enemy advance or direct it to a predetermined killing zone.

Over 200 were built; today less than half survive

“Although originally over 200 posts were built as part of this scheme, today less than half survive, which makes it all the more important to save and retain this example,” Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna said in its objection.

Heritage Malta and the San Ġwann local council have also spoken against the development, which will include seven apartments, two underground garages and two ground-floor maisonettes.

“The development shall result in the demolition of the present WWII defensive structure, which should be conserved and scheduled,” the local council said.

“The building structure in question is a first-rate WWII defence post disguised as a traditional Maltese rural structure to fit in its rural setting.”

In a letter sent to this newspaper earlier this month, Tony Cutajar, from the organisation Wirt San Ġwann, appealed to the public and other constituted bodies to submit objections to the PA before the September 5 deadline.

“Are we to forgo this wartime defensive vestige in the name of ‘development’,” Mr Cutajar said, “or are we brave and strong enough to make our voices heard in unison to save what is left of our World War II heritage?”

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