The unbridled onslaught on Urban Conservation Areas in the very heart of Sliema is set to
continue, says heritage NGO Din l-Art Helwa, if a planning application for the demolition of a
complete stretch of five row houses, part of the traditional streetscape of Depiro Street, goes
through. The proposal is for the wholesale demolition of five row houses from the early 20 th
century, with their wooden doors and balconies, wrought iron fanlights and coloured glass
windows, so typical of Sliema’s architecture of that period, and their replacement by,
effectively, a six-storey development of nondescript apartment blocks.
The heritage NGO has objected strongly to this shocking application which totally disregards
planning policies for UCAs, and states it points to the absolute lack of appreciation for
traditional architecture that continues to be lost to banal residential development. ‘There will soon be nothing to show of our vernacular town houses should this application be approved’
says DLH, “once these are lost, they will be lost forever”.
The application goes against several policies laid out within the Strategic Plan for the
Environment and Development and in DC15 which are which are intended to protect vernacular
properties that characterize the historic fabric of our towns and villages and are still in good state of repair. These traditional row houses in Depiro St, Sliema are part of a stretch of undisturbed streetscape, of over 70m length, with an architecturally consistent and continuous rhythm and with characteristic staircases that punctuate the ground floor plinth as was typical of the period. In its objection to this proposal, Din l-Art Helwa points out to the Planning Authority, that it ought to abide strictly by these policies which are intended to encourage restoration and conservation of buildings in historic cores and settings, and to prevent their loss. Such policies, states the heritage NGO, are intended to avoid the wiping out of the aesthetic and architectural heritage of the streets, particularly within Urban
Conservation Areas – and these policies ought to be upheld without exception.
It is indeed inconceivable, continued Din l-Art Helwa, that an application that directly
contradicts the reasons why Urban Conservation Areas have been defined, should be approved.
‘We are particularly concerned at the marked boldness with which such applications, directly
and unashamedly contradicting the objectives of such policies, are being increasingly submitted
to the Planning Authority for approval’ states Din l-Art Helwa and stressed that if one such
proposal slips through, it will very shortly lead to the total oblivion of those characteristics that the country so badly now needs to preserve.