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PA gives owners of Villa St Ignatius permit to shore up dangers

Developer, architect face contempt of court cases after unlawful demolition

The illegal demolition of a wing of Villa Ignatius in St Julian’s resulted in dangers.

The illegal demolition of a wing of Villa Ignatius in St Julian’s resulted in dangers.

The owners of Villa St Ignatius in Balluta have been granted permission to shore up the dangerous structures that resulted from illegal demolition works, the Times of Malta was told.

Developer Paul Gauci and architect Stephen Vancell are facing contempt of court proceedings after demolishing a wing of the historic villa last November, a few days after the building was proposed for scheduling, which breached the conditions of a dangerous structures permit and a court order.

No enforcement action has been taken by the Planning Authority over the illegal works so far. The regulator has, however, granted permission for the “shoring up of existing dangerous structures… in a temporary and totally reversible manner”. The application was “partially accepted” on April 18 but only came to light recently, as such permits are generally not public.

Read: PA chairman’s ‘reservations’ over Villa Ignatius judgment

In a letter to the planning watchdog, Din l-Art Ħelwa said it was “absurd” to issue a permit to remove dangerous works “occasioned by the same people who are responsible for the dangerous situation, without taking legal action against the culprits”.

It is absurd to issue a permit to remove dangerous works without taking legal action against culprits

Its legal counsel, Franco Vassallo, said the demolition works had been carried out without shoring and without supervision by an architect. He called on the PA to carry out its legal obligations and begin enforcement procedures. The heritage NGO last month instituted court action against the planning regulator claiming that its failure to act once it had been made aware of the demolition was in breach of the law.

According to Din l-Art Ħelwa, the PA is able to penalise the developers or order the reconstruction of the demolished part of the building.

The new, dangerous structures application was filed just weeks after a separate zoning application seeking to build a public square cutting right through the remaining part of the villa. The application, still under assessment, seeks a “change in alignment to include a pedestrian road within site” and would zone a large area of the site occupied by the building as public open space.

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

The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage has issued a conservation order for the historic villa.

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