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Developers plan square cutting right through Balluta’s Villa St Ignatius

Application seeks change in alignment to create pedestrian road

The proposed public open space (highlighted) will cut through part of the existing villa. Graphic: Design Studio

The proposed public open space (highlighted) will cut through part of the existing villa. Graphic: Design Studio

Developers behind the controversial demolition of part of Balluta’s Villa St Ignatius have now applied to create a public square cutting right through the remaining part of the historic building.

The new zoning application comes despite a conservation order issued by the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage (SCH) and an imminent court ruling on whether developer Paul Gauci should face contempt proceedings for demolishing a wing of the villa last November, allegedly in breach of a court order.

The application, submitted on March 19 and scheduled for publication on Wednesday, seeks a “change in alignment to include a pedestrian road within site” and would zone a large area of the site as public open space, which plans show will cut through the existing villa.

Mr Gauci did not respond to questions on Tuesday on the reasons behind the proposal and whether further demolition was being planned.

PA was ignoring requests to take action against the developers

Public consultation on the application is open until April 26 before it is assessed by the Planning Authority.

Villa St Ignatius, in Scicluna Street, is part of a larger property which once housed the first Jesuit’s College in Malta, and which was mentioned as a landmark building in an 1839 account of Malta.

Workers demolished part of the villa over the course of nearly a week last November and December, just days after Din L-Art Ħelwa had applied for the building to be scheduled.

The PA took no action to halt the demolition and later issued a statement stating that the work was carried out under a court order handed down in June.

This court order provided only for the removal of dangerous structures and required all work to be carried out under the supervision of a court-nominated architect, who has said he was never notified.

Din L-Art Ħelwa has since requested the courts to rule on whether the developers and the PA acted in contempt by breaching the conditions of the court order.

The NGO claims that PA executive chairman Johann Buttigieg and enforcement director Martin Scicluna had failed to stop the works and stated that the case had been investigated and found to be in line with the conditions when this was manifestly not the case.

Read: Protect Balluta’s Villa St Ignatius, says NGO

A ruling is expected later this month.

Lawyer Franco Vassallo, representing Din L-Art Ħelwa, told the Times of Malta the PA was also ignoring requests to take action against the developer for breaching the conditions of the planning permit issued by the authority.

Dr Vassallo said the NGO was contemplating further legal action against the PA over its failure to fulfil its legal obligations.

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