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PA stops work on Anġlu Xuereb’s Valletta hotel

Concerns about developments marring the skyline

A photo of an irregular structure on the roof level of Mr Xuereb’s hotel.

A photo of an irregular structure on the roof level of Mr Xuereb’s hotel.

Construction work on Valletta visionary Anġlu Xuereb’s boutique hotel has been halted due to “numerous illegalities”, the Times of Malta has learnt.

A spokesman for the Planning Authority confirmed that work on the development in Merchants Street had been suspended.

The PA, the spokesman said, had first inspected the development last month following reports by residents.

“A number of illegalities were noted on site, following which PA officers stopped all works and evacuated all employees and machinery,” the spokesman said.

Mr Xuereb, a construction magnate and hotelier, was then ordered to stop all works and to file a fresh application to cover additional development and sanction existing irregularities.

“The owner was informed that any further works would initiate an enforcement notice on site, including daily fines,” the spokesman said.

However, a routine site inspection by PA representatives last week indicated that works were in fact continuing.

The new hotel has now been served with both an enforcement notice, which includes a daily fine, and a protection and conservation order by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage.

When asked about the irregularities, Mr Xuereb said the works had been halted and that he had applied for the necessary permits.

In July, this newspaper reported on Mr Xuereb’s proposed 10-year master plan for the capital city. His suggestions range from logistical changes, such as limiting the window for when delivery trucks can enter the city or putting an 11pm curfew on live music not to disturb residents, to more ambitious proposals, like an underground electric tram connecting the Floriana park-and-ride to City Gate.

He wants to turn Valletta into a “truly unique Renaissance city”.

Valletta resident Reuben Grima has, meanwhile, raised concerns with regard to irregular developments on rooftops in the capital. “We need to protect the city’s skyline. Washrooms turning into penthouses or additional floors are not something to be taken lightly,” he said.

“This is part of the ongoing gang rape of Valletta. I use the metaphor of ‘gang rape’ carefully and deliberately because it shares a number of characteristics: systematic, planned and coordinated, repetitive and, often, facilitated by institutional ineffectuality, tolerance or even collusion,” Mr Grima said.

The Unesco World Heritage Committee has been highlighting this concern and recommending better regulation of Valletta’s roofscape for several years. A detailed report, published in 2009, had highlighted the importance of this.

Questions sent to the Maltese National Commission for Unesco remained unanswered at the time of writing.

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