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Bats could be unlikely saviours of old buildings

Roosting colony would need to be relocated before development

The two houses on Triq il-Lunzjata, Santa Venera. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

The two houses on Triq il-Lunzjata, Santa Venera. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Demolition of old buildings often runs into opposition from nearby residents but in the case of a century-old house in Santa Venera, the ‘residents’ are of a different sort: a colony of roosting bats that appears to have settled in the house or its garden.

The Planning Authority is considering an application to demolish two houses on Triq il-Lunzjata, preserving only their facades, as well as a large garden, to build a five-storey apartment block.

Cultural heritage authorities have already expressed concern over the two properties, which form part of a well-preserved row of townhouses and were already present on the 1915 survey sheet.

However, more unusually, Nature Trust warned in the objection that the garden was home to a colony of roosting bats, a legally protected species, and that appropriate relocation measures should be taken if the development were to be given the go-ahead.

Jeffrey Sciberras, who works with the NGO, told the Times of Malta the bats could have set up a roost in the garden or in one of the abandoned properties.

He said he had worked with an expert to record the bats’ movements and had passed the information onto the Environment and Resources Authority in the hope of further investigation. The design fronting the adjacent Triq Brighella “jars alarmingly” with the neighbouring two-storey properties

The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage said the two houses had “evident architectural value” and should be evaluated further before permission was given for their demolition.

READ: Maltese bats studied using new techniques

“The superintendence notes the declared intent to preserve and integrate the facades but expresses its concern on the five storeys proposed in a street dominated by two-storey houses,” it said.

“This will inevitably create high and unsightly blank walls and will impact on the significant and legible streetscape.”

The heritage watchdog also noted the design fronting the adjacent Triq Brighella “jars alarmingly” with the neighbouring two-storey properties.

Moreover, it warned of a recorded wartime shelter in Triq Brighella, close to the corner with Triq il-Lunzjata and the area where excavations would be carried out as part of the development.

“Such wartime shelters have cultural heritage value and should not be damaged or destroyed,” it said.

Photo: Claude BusuttilPhoto: Claude Busuttil

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