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

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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