150-year-old townhouse in Sliema next for demolition

This 150-year-old townhouse in Cathedral Street, Sliema, is earmarked for demolition. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

This 150-year-old townhouse in Cathedral Street, Sliema, is earmarked for demolition. Photo: Mark Zammit Cordina

A nearly 150-year old townhouse in the heart of Sliema is the latest to be targeted for demolition under a new application for a six-storey apartment block.

The house in Cathedral Street, within the Sliema Urban Conservation Area, is part of a well-preserved row of houses commissioned by the Mdina Cathedral between 1870 and 1886 for clergymen coming from renowned families.

Several residents, as well as the Sliema local council, have written in to the Planning Authority in recent weeks objecting to the proposed development, which would completely demolish the house to build a ground floor maisonette, nine apartments and two penthouses.

Objectors have argued that approving the application would irreversibly alter the streetscape and destroy the character of the surrounding townhouses.

The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage has also objected to the development, noting that the house contained various internal architectural elements which demanded preservation.

This townhouse is of cultural heritage value

“This townhouse is of cultural heritage value and deserves to be restored and retained, since it represents an era of architecture which is practically lost in Sliema,” the Superintendence wrote in its comments to the PA.

Architect Edward Said, president of the Sliema Heritage Society, called for the townhouse in question – number 33 – to be scheduled, and noted that similar buildings nearby had recently been restored to be used as residences.

“Cathedral Street has over the past decades lost much of its original splendour to development,” Mr Said wrote, “however four of its finest stately properties still survive as a well­-preserved row, together with a smaller townhouse designed by the acclaimed Art Nouveau exponent Giuseppe Psaila (architect of Balluta Buildings) which abuts number 33.”

Sliema has seen a marked increase in applications for apartment blocks and guesthouses in place of traditional townhouses over the last year, partly due to changes in planning procedures.

This has raised widespread concern over the fate of the town’s few remaining undisturbed streetscapes, and the Sliema local council has submitted objections to dozens of new developments in recent months, largely due to concerns over architectural heritage. Many of the developments were given the green light by the PA despite the complaints.

A number of these permits are still being contested at appeal, but many residents feel the locality has been written off by the authorities.

“The fact that someone... finds an architect that submits such an application knowing the PA might actually grant the permit is a clear case of what is wrong with the PA in Malta,” one resident wrote of the latest case.

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