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'Revoke permit for windows and doorway overlooking Cittadella'

Back wall of 18th-century house collapsed during development

A permit granted to the developers of a boutique hotel to open windows and a door onto the Ċittadella ditch has not been revoked, to the dismay of the Victoria Local Council and Wirt Għawdex.

The two are flagging the “controversial” development a few months after the collapse of the back wall of the 18th-century house of character that is being converted into a boutique hotel.

The wall had collapsed during development on the site, which lies within a historical area of archaeological importance and is in close proximity to Class B scheduled archaeological remains.

The Planning Authority had stopped all the works and a magisterial inquiry got underway.

The following day, in a Conservation and Protection Order, the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage described the property as abutting the “counter-scarp of the covert-way in front of the ditch, which are an intrinsic part of the historical fortifications around the Ċittadella”.

“This is a historic centre of outstanding architectural, historical and contextual value, scheduled for its protection at the highest level,” Superintendent Joseph Magro Conti had noted.

In March, Wirt Għawdex had already voiced its concern about the opening of two windows and a door onto the Ċittadella ditch for the hotel.

The Victoria Local Council and Wirt Għawdex have expressed satisfaction that the repair work on the collapsed wall is progressing and the wall is being rebuilt.

However, they regretted that “the controversial two windows and doorway overlooking the ditch will again be established since the original permit has not been amended to omit these apertures, notwithstanding the damage they have created.”

The council said on Wednesday that since the ditch belonged to the government, it was only the Lands Authority that could submit an objection about these apertures.

“The local council has carried out its responsibilities as the lessee and advised and made its objections, before the wall collapsed, to the Lands Authority as the responsible entity for government property.

“The Lands Authority confirmed to the council that no such permission was ever granted. However, the granting of servitude (making openings in a dividing wall) always needs to be approved by the owner and yet, the Planning Authority did not receive or request the developer to present such permission during processing of the application,” it said in a statement.

The council and the NGO also pointed out that originally, the Superintendence “strongly objected to these apertures”. All the reasons quoted for objections were still relevant today.

The council and Wirt Għawdex are, therefore, “strongly” recommending that the permit is amended accordingly by the PA by removing the apertures.

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