Coalition for Gozo
Din l-Art Ħelwa Għawdex, Għawdix, Wirt Għawdex
3 May 2023
The eNGOs within the Coalition for Gozo are extremely alarmed by the recommendation in front of the Planning Board to approve a block of flats (PA/05562/21) that is located in the protected scheduled setting of Ta’ Kola Windmill and also within the Area of Archaeological Influence of Ġgantija Temples. The Planning Board will decide on the proposal this Thursday, 4 May 2023.
This development, if approved, will set a dangerous precedent for an entire neighbourhood that forms part of the cultural landscape and setting of three top heritage sites: the temples, the windmill, and the Xagħra Circle. This neighbourhood of two-storey townhouses also forms part of the cultural skyline of Xagħra, which in turn forms part of the visual integrity of Ġgantija Temples and Ta’ Kola Windmill.
These characteristics are also part of the intangible cultural heritage, which holds value in its own right as part of the nation’s cultural identity, and that is part of the context through which the Ġgantija Temples and Ta Kola Windmill are experienced. Such context and values, including the intangible cultural heritage, are protected in planning policies, particularly in Planning Circular 3/20.
Planning Circular 3/20 was formulated in May of 2020 with the intention of preventing the kind of development that the Planning Authority is now recommending for approval on Thursday. The Circular introduced the concept of context and setting, and we deplore that the Planning Authority and the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage have ignored relevant policies in the assessments.
We note with deep disappointment and dismay that the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, which is supposed to be the guardian of the nation’s heritage, has not opposed the four-storey block of flats that will be decided on Wednesday, that is clearly in breach of various policies, and which will have a negative impact on the windmill and the wider setting. We feel that the Superintendence took a position on the development after making only a superficial and narrow consideration of the impact of the development.
The Coalition for Gozo also deplores that the Planning Authority and Superintendence did not take into account the cumulative impact of this development. This development proposal cannot be seen in isolation because of the precedent it will set that will lead to the destruction of the cultural landscape and cultural skyline.
We also note that the Court of Appeal has laid down landmark judgements that revoked permits of developments of some of the same policies. Moreover, the Chamber of Architects (Kamra tal-Periti) has last February issued Directive 01/23, which instructed architects to take into account the context on height of buildings in the buffer zone of Neolithic temples. We support that directive. Unfortunately, the directive seems to have fallen on deaf ears.
We call on the Planning Board on Thursday 4 May 2023 to heed planning policies and Court judgements and refuse the permit for this block of flats. The Planning Authority cannot continue to act with institutional impunity in defiance of court teachings.
Coalition for Gozo
Din l-Art Ħelwa Għawdex (VO/0008)
Wirt Għawdex (VO/0227)
Red shows the proposed blocks of flats that will be decided on this Thursday, 4 May 2023; Yellow shows how the skyline would be impacted if other similar developments of four storeys are allowed
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