Maltatoday, Sunday 22nd June 2008, by James Debono
An 18th century fort built by Grand Master Manuel Pinto da Fonseca is in a veritable shambles after being used as a store by a fish farming company for the past years.
But the Pinto Battery – a Grade 1 protected building – is set to be restored to its former glory after long years of neglect, with the activities of the existing fish farm to be relocated to an existing abandoned broiler farm in Selmun.
MEPA’s Development Control Commission has already approved an outline planning permit for the development of the alternative site. The full development application is presently being processed by MEPA.
In conjunction with this, the company presently occupying the historical fort has been requested to submit a planning application for the restoration of the Pinto Battery.
“This is to ensure that the applicant will restore the battery following the approval of the new permit,” a MEPA spokesperson told MaltaToday.
A bank guarantee will also be sought in the full development application to ensure that the restoration takes place.
The Mistra battery is already scheduled as a Grade 1 historical building. Nobody is allowed to make external or interior alterations which will change the character of such buildings.
Yet despite this high level of protection, the fort is still being used as a store for the fish farm.
Back in 1999 MEPA had refused to sanction toilets and showers and the concrete surfacing on the surrounding area.
The site is still subject to an enforcement order, dating back to 2002, against the change of use of the redoubt and against other illegal structures in the area. “The enforcement order was issued in view of the fact that the commercial activity had encroached within the protected building,” the MEPA spokesperson told this newspaper.
But this enforcement case was appealed and is still pending to date. The next appeals’ hearing is set for 18 July.
The fort was constructed in the 18th century during the grandmastership of Manuel Pinto da Fonseca, whose coat of arms still adorn the building.
The fish farm is operated by Pisciculture Marine de Malte Limited, which is partly owned by DIPSI S.R.L, based in Italy, and PMM Finance SA which is registered in Luxembourg. The only Maltese shareholder is Robert Aquilina.