Din l-Art Ħelwa and The Archaeological Society Malta have filed an appeal to the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal to overturn the approval of an apartment block which would overlook the Ġgantija Temples in Gozo.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site is a megalithic temple complex from the Neolithic era (c. 3600–2500 BC).
The NGOs are basing their appeal on the argument that during the hearing held last November, the Planning Directorate together with the developer’s architect allegedly misled the Planning Board by wrongly insisting that the site was not within the official buffer zone as established for this World Heritage Site.
As a signatory to the UNESCO Conventions concerning the Protection of the World Cultural Heritage, Malta is obliged to carry out a Heritage Impact Assessment for any proposal within a UNESCO World Heritage Site buffer zone.
The appealing NGOs assessed all the relevant documents and confirm that the site is indeed within the official buffer zone as established for this World Heritage Site.
“The Planning Board blatantly ignored the public’s insistence on the need for a Heritage Impact Assessment and proceeded to approve the apartment block, in breach of Malta’s obligations as a signatory state,” the NGOs argue.
The permit approved last November would allow the developer to demolish the existing dwelling – which is worth saving in its own right – and to construct 20 garages at basement level and 22 overlying apartments.
The NGOs insist that the introduction of a new apartment block overlooking the prehistoric temples was unacceptable treatment of any heritage site, let alone one of such international prestige.
While the NGOs have filed this appeal, they have also made it clear that if not successful, they will continue to challenge this decision to ensure that this site of such unparalleled value is safeguarded.