Din l-Art Ħelwa has filed an objection to the Planning Authority, saying that an application to redevelop the Villa St Ignatius site would overwhelm this historical property.
Villa St Ignatius is an early 19th century property of distinct architectural value, believed to be the first building of note in the Balluta area and possibly the first Neo-Gothic building in Malta.
The developer is proposing to build a 64-room hotel through a 3-floor extension above this historical building, along with two adjacent blocks of five and six storeys, which DLĦ says would engulf the original building.
As a residential area, it falls under a policy under which only hostels – and not hotels – can be considered.
Apart from the fact that site lies in Sliema’s Urban Conservation Area – which imposes certain height limitations – the streetscape is designated as a Category B, meaning that additional floors would be in breach of this policy, as they may only be considered if they do not “detract from the architectural homogeneity of the existing vernacular building”.
A number of other points were made by DLĦ in its objection, ranging from the social and cultural context to traffic management.
DLĦ had already raised red flags about the proposal in the past, resulting in the developer’s new architect adjusting the plans considerably so that the villa – which is protected by an emergency conservation order issued by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage – would not be touched but that the development would be built around it. However, the resulting proposal still does not comply with various applicable policies.
“This overwhelming structure would completely dominate this heritage building and the further construction encircling it would result in the total ruin of its immediate context. Such treatment of this distinct heritage building is completely unacceptable,” DLĦ’s Heritage and Environment Protection committee said.