An application to change a Grade 2 scheduled property into a boutique hotel has angered residents and NGOs alike.
The site, ‘Villino Zammit’, is scheduled as a Grade 2 property and is located within the Sliema Urban Conservation Area having two frontages facing Triq Il-Kbira and Triq San Nikola. The gardens of the villa are not included within the scheduling boundary, according to the case officer’s report.
The proposed works will entail the demolition of an existing wall along Triq San Nikola (back of site) and the construction of accommodation rooms as an extension to the proposed tourist accommodation. The proposal also includes interventions within the scheduled building, additions at the second floor level and addition of four floors on part of the building,
The Sliema Local Council is objecting to this proposal, arguing among other things that the proposal would compromise this Grade 2 Schedule building, that the villa has architectural and historical value and that the formal garden should be preserved. In their objections, the council explains that the building is a late 19th century villa.
The Superintendence of cultural Heritage, according to the case officer’s report, notes that this “development will likely affect the character of the Grade 2 scheduled building.” The SCH argued that it required further information to adequately assess this development application, yet the case officer’s report notes: “The architect / applicant were informed with the Design Advisory Committee, Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and Enemalta matters. Further, the latter document noted issues related to uses, building height, servicing arrangements etc. To date these issues remained unresolved. In view of the above arguments, the proposed development cannot be favourably recommended.”
The case officer recommended that the project be refused, arguing among other reasons that the proposed development runs counter to the general principles of the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development and that the proposed development is not considered to be in harmony with the Urban Conservation Area in which it is located.
The application has yet to be heard by the Planning authority Board, and is scheduled for a hearing in September. In the meantime, the Sliema Heritage Society, Din l-Art Helwa and the Sliema Local Council sent an official request for scheduling of the historic gardens.
The request for at least Grade 2 scheduling by these three entities highlights that the proposed development will result in the partial destruction of the back-garden and the complete demolition of a substantially high rubble wall on St Nicholas Street “compromising the still pristine streetscape of the same street. Other projected interventions including major alterations to both gardens, effectively turning the front one into a car port and the back one diminished into a large yard.”
The three entities argue that the gardens are still in excellent condition and are part and parcel of the villa itself without which the latter will be of a greatly degraded value. “Therefore the scheduling should ensure that they are not in any way compromised.”
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