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KTP writes to Minister Bonnici re SCH

The Kamra tal-Periti has written to Minister Owen Bonnici regarding his parliamentary speech on the budget estimates of the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage. In its letter, the Kamra has acknowledged that the statistics indicating an increase in the volume of planning applications processed by the SCH has increased from 1,099 in 2015 to 5,412 in 2016.

The Kamra pointed out, however, that the statement was “misleading in that the increase is a result of the new legislation which requires the SCH to assess each and every application for development permission, irrespective of its  impact on cultural heritage matters. Prior to the demerger, the SCH only had to deal with those applications that posed a clear and direct threat to our heritage, whereas now it has to assess even the most trivial of applications, thus impacting heavily on its workload.”

The letter states that while the Kamra agrees that in a country as small as ours, many types of development may impact on our village cores and architectural and cultural heritage, we are now in a situation where the SCH is overloaded with applications to assess, to the extent that it is failing to keep up even with those applications that should fall within its direct remit.

The Kamra insisted that the SCH should be given sufficient resources to fulfill its remit and deal with “the immense workload it is faced with on a daily basis”, pointing out that the MEPA demerger has effectively weakened the SCH rather than strengthen it.

KTP offered to meet with Minister Bonnici to discuss the matter in greater depth so that the problems afflicting the SCH may be urgently addressed.

 

PR 05/17 | Marsa Power Station

The Kamra tal-Periti exhorts Government and Enemalta to reconsider the demolition of those parts of the old Marsa Power Station that are considered to have significant architectural quality and that form an important part of our industrial heritage.

Only last week, the Grand Harbour Regeneration Corporation organised a morning conference extolling the importance of the regeneration of certain degraded areas, yet ironically parts of the Power Station were being demolished as the conference was under way.

The Kamra tal-Periti calls for the demolition process to be halted immediately, firstly because it considers the Power Station Site to be crucial in the successful regeneration of the Marsa area, and also because to date there is no clear plan for what is to be done with the site once the buildings are demolished. There is therefore still time to integrate the existing structures within any proposed redevelopment of the site.

The Kamra tal-Periti refers to the work carried out by the final year students of the Faculty for the Built Environment in 2016, wherein they explored various alternatives for the regeneration of Marsa, including the Power Station site. The Faculty is of the opinion that while the demolition of the power station would clear up a tract of land that could be used to accommodate a wide range of uses, both commercial and civic, the value of the building itself is important as industrial and architectural heritage, and there is no reason why it cannot be preserved, and used as a spur for the redevelopment of the surrounding area. This opinion is shared by the Kamra tal-Periti.

Previous cohorts of students have studied this site and the building before, and proposals have ranged from a University Campus to cultural buildings – always conceived as the heart of a new town of Marsa. Why not build an Opera House or a Philarmonic Concert Hall on the area around. In their 2016 studies, students presented other proposals for the Power Station, including using it as an experimental aquaponics research centre, or a leisure amenity facility, including a Performing Arts resource in the underground tunnels adjacent. What about a modern art gallery, as was done with the Tate in London? The top of the tunnels would become a special type of park similar to those gradually appearing in Europe which link nature with art, as in Berlin’s former Tempelhof airport, or in Copenhagen’s Norrebro district. The whole complex could become the heart of a completely regenerated Marsa. The Kamra tal-Periti offers its availability and resources to assist Government in organising an ideas competition for the site, aimed at catalysing regeneration of this port town.

 

 

In November 2016, the Kamra tal-Periti had drawn attention to the old Gozo MMU Milk Plant, and had called upon the Planning Authority to safeguard this building of significant architectural quality, particularly in view of the recent destruction of the administration block of the ex-Dowty factory in Mrieħel, which building was also designed in the Modernist Style and which was demolished following approval of such demolition by the Planning Authority. Less than two weeks ago, the Planning Authority announced the scheduling of the Milk Plant, which was designed by renowned architect Joseph Huntingford, yet the same level of protection has regretfully not been afforded to the Marsa Power Station.

It is indeed disheartening that the Planning Authority has not yet undertaken a comprehensive study of our industrial areas which are rich in industrial and architectural assets that should be preserved. Such a study needs to be undertaken without delay, and the necessary procedures set in motion to preserve what is left of our country’s modern architectural and industrial heritage. The Kamra tal-Periti proposes that a joint committee should be established between the Planning Authority, the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, Heritage Malta, NGOs and the Kamra itself in order to identify those buildings that and areas that merit preservation and sustainable regeneration.

PR 04/17 | Old Milk Plant in Xewkija, Gozo (2)

The Kamra tal-Periti welcomes with satisfaction the scheduling at Grade 2 level of the old Gozo MMU Milk Plant, which was designed by renowned architect Joseph Huntingford, and which includes a number of unique architectural elements inspired by the Modernist Movement.

In November 2016, the Kamra tal-Periti had drawn attention to this building which lies within the Xewkija Enterprise Hub, which area was undergoing a change in planning policy. The Kamra tal-Periti had called upon the Planning Authority to safeguard this building of significant architectural quality, particularly in view of the recent destruction of the administration block of the ex-Dowty factory in Mrieħel, which building was also designed in the Modernist Style and which was demolished following approval of such demolition by the Planning Authority.

The Kamra tal-Periti exhorts the Planning Authority to undergo a study of our industrial areas, which include a number of buildings in the same architectural style, and which merit protection and rehabilitation.

PR 09/16 | Old Milk Plant in Xewkija, Gozo

At the end of October, the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Environment and Development Planning met to discuss proposed changes to the Gozo and Comino Local Plan, specifically with respect to the Xewkija Industrial Area in Gozo. The proposal concerned a large site which the Planning Authority was proposing to re-zone from its current use for “Agricultural Products Processing and Market” to general industrial purposes as part of the Xewkija Enterprise Hub.

While seemingly a run of the mill proposal, the Kamra tal-Periti noted that the site in question houses the old Gozo MMU Milk Plant, which was designed by renowned architect Joseph Huntingford, and which includes a number of unique architectural elements inspired by the Modernist Movement. The Committee discussed the possibility of inclusion of a safeguard within the new policy to ensure the protection of those architectural features that merit retention and preservation.

The Kamra tal-Periti expressed its agreement with the introduction of such a safeguard, particularly in view of the recent destruction of the administration block of the ex-Dowty factory in Mrieħel, which building was also designed in the Modernist Style and which was demolished following approval of such demolition by the Planning Authority. Evidently, the appreciation of our architectural heritage from this period is sorely lacking, and therefore the Kamra tal-Periti exhorts the Minister to consent to the introduction of a safeguard in the policy for the Xewkija Enterprise Hub, such that those elements of the building that merit protection may be integrated within any new development proposal for the site.