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PR 03/22 | Court chastises Planning Authority for illegally authorising demolition of historical Sea Malta building

Verżjoni bil-Malti

On 20th March 2018, the Kamra tal-Periti, together with Din l-Art Ħelwa and Flimkien għall-Ambjent Aħjar, had sued the Planning Authority over the illegal authorisation granted to Enemalta plc to demolish the Sea Malta building at Xatt l-Għassara in Marsa.

The Sea Malta building, or what is left of it, is an important part of our architectural heritage – a fine modernist building that successive administrations sadly failed to adequately protect and schedule.

 

The court case had been filed after having first written to former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on 6th December 2017 stating that “this building is now severely dismembered as a direct result of the Authority’s failure to recognise its error, to ignore repeated calls for the works to be stopped, and to blatantly ignore the findings of the investigation carried out by the Commissioner [for the Environment and Planning]. This behaviour can only be described as an utter disgrace, and a clear signal that the Authority believes itself to be above the law.”

The Kamra had called on the former Prime Minister for immediate action to be taken to ensure that abusive planning approvals for demolition of our built heritage are reversed, and that the necessary measures are taken to safeguard historical buildings from further destruction under the guise of permitted development. A request for an urgent meeting was also made. This letter and successive pleas for discussion remained unanswered.

 

On 29th December 2017, the Commissioner for the Environment and Planning within the Office of the Ombudsman had confirmed the Kamra’s position about the substantive and procedural failings of the Planning Authority in this case. Indeed, the PA’s Executive Council had explicitly voted to ignore the Ombudsman’s findings and allow the demolition of the Sea Malta building to proceed regardless.

 

Yesterday’s final judgement confirms the Kamra’s position on the systematic failings in the planning processes that make a pretence of being rigorous but fail to truly protect the country’s built environment and its historical architectural legacy.

Over recent months, we have witnessed various images going viral on social media illustrating the travesty surrounding the purported protection of architectural heritage, from prehistoric cart-ruts to rural chapels and prominent 19th Century buildings in St Julian’s. These images nakedly expose this pretence, which should no longer be ignored by decision-makers. As witnessed in the Sea Malta building case, given the opportunity, the PA’s Executive Council will vote for the demolition of cultural heritage rather than its protection.

 

The Kamra shall continue to advocate for the need for comprehensive planning reform to ensure that the Planning Authority begins to focus on upholding the public good rather than speculative interests.

 

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PR 06/20 | Shared Cultures, Shared Heritage, Shared Responsibility

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The 18th April marks the International Day for Monuments and Sites. The theme chosen for this year’s celebration is “Shared Cultures, Shared Heritage, Shared Responsibility”, recognising that heritage – whether places, landscapes, practices, or collections – are frequently connected with and valued by multiple and diverse groups and communities. This year, as the world goes through the current crisis caused by COVID-19, we are called to celebrate and think about the relationships between cultures or cultural groups and their collective responsibility for the care and safeguarding of the significant attributes, meanings, and values of heritage.

It was, in fact, exactly two years ago that 22 organisations active in the field of cultural heritiage came together to express their shared concern for the manner in which the indiscriminate demolition of our built and other cultural assets was resulting in a general impoverishment of our urban areas.

These entities jointly signed a Declaration titled “Our Legacy – Wirtna”, which had one fundamental message: that the way we treat our heritage is the legacy we leave for future generations.

Two years ago we reminded Government of the Declaration of Principles of the Constitution of Malta which stipulates that “the State shall safeguard the landscape and the historical and artistic patrimony of the Nation”, and put forward 11 demands for Government to implement. To date, none of these demands have been met.

Last September, hundreds of people crowded the streets of Valletta chanting “Enough is Enough!” Enough to planning policies that do not respect citizens. Enough to authorities that do not plan properly and do not respect the environment. Enough to large-scale construction projects, road construction works and lack of transportation planning. Enough to low air quality and lack of preservation of biodiversity. Enough to a construction industry which is allowed to operate in an unregulated manner.

These calls were not dissimilar to those made by the 22 organisations two years ago. The concern is, in fact, a shared concern – that our culture and our heritage are being disregarded, and that economic interests are far too often given the upper hand.

We have a shared responsibility to safeguard our culture and our heritage. The Kamra tal-Periti and its fellow signatories of “Our Legacy – Wirtna” are fully committed to make sure this happens. Is Government equally committed?

Declaration

Read the Declaration signed by 22 organisations

 

 

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Call for Projects in Conflict Zone or Post-Conflict Situations

The International alliance for the protection of heritage in conflict areas (ALIPH) has a mandate to offer concrete support for the protection and reconstruction of cultural heritage in conflict zones or post-conflict situations.

ALIPH aims to financially support associations, foundations, cultural and heritage institutions, and international organisations working to preserve cultural heritage in the face of imminent conflict, or to intervene to rehabilitate it. ALIPH has set the objective of becoming a central actor in the protection of cultural heritage around the world within a three-year timeframe.

The organisation is already committed to the ambitious project of supporting the rehabilitation of the Mosul Museum in Iraq; restoring the Tomb of Askia in Gao, Mali; and rehabilitating the Mar Behnam Monastery in Northern Iraq.

ALIPH is now launching a worldwide call via its new website that will enable it to support prevention, protection and restoration projects on every scale, from the smallest local initiatives to ambitious long-term projects. ALIPH also aims to supply immediate aid wherever this is most urgently needed. Project proposals can be submitted up until 15 March 2019 on the ALIPH website : https://www.aliph-foundation.org/

“Too many places in the world know the suffering and destruction of armed conflict. Among the terrible casualties are the built embodiments of cultural heritage — the physical environments that define culture, creating and sustaining memories of place. Architects can help to protect cultural heritage in conflict zones, and to rebuild it when fighting subsides.  The UIA associates itself fully with the aims of the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH), and joins with the French National Council of the Order of Architects (CNOA) to promulgate this important worldwide call for projects.”

Thomas Vonier, UIA President

 

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PR 06/18 | Our Legacy / Wirtna – Meeting with Partit Demokratiku

On the 18th April 2018, 22 entities active in the field of cultural heritage signed a Declaration calling for the preservation of our built heritage. The Declaration, titled “Our Legacy – Wirtna” presented the fundamental message that the manner in which we treat our heritage is the legacy we leave for future generations.

Given the significant role of the political class in upholding the principles outlined in the Declaration, meetings are being held with the political parties. The first such meeting took place on the 31st May 2018, when representatives of the Kamra tal-Periti, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar and The Archaeological Society Malta met with Dr Anthony Buttigieg and Timothy Alden, Leader and Deputy Leader respectively of Partit Demokratiku.

A number of issues were discussed including the unsatisfactory performance of the Planning Authority and the Environment and Resources Authority, as well as the severe lack of resources of the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and the weak legislation that governs it.

The representatives of Partit Demokratiku confirmed their agreement with the statements made in the Declaration and pledged the Party’s support by offering to act as a vehicle to communicate the message of “Our Legacy – Wirtna” through its elected MPs Dr Marlene Farrugia and Dr Godfrey Farrugia.

For further information visit: https://www.facebook.com/SafeguardingHeritageTogether/

Right to Left: Dr Anthony Buttigieg (Leader, Partit Demokratiku); Timothy Alden (Deputy Leader, Partit Demokratiku); Maria Grazia Cassar (Executive President, Din l-Art Ħelwa); Perit Tara Cassar (Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar); Dr Petra Caruana Dingli (Din l-Art Ħelwa); Prof Alex Torpiano (Kamra tal-Periti).

Left to right: Dr Anthony Buttigieg (Leader, Partit Demokratiku); Timothy Alden (Deputy Leader, Partit Demokratiku); Patricia Camilleri (President, The Archaeological Society Malta); Prof Alex Torpiano (Kamra tal-Periti); Dr Petra Caruana Dingli (Din l-Art Ħelwa); Perit Tara Cassar (Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar).

 

 

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.

 

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