Hamron’s glass-floored house draws the wrath of oversight board for violating PA policies

The Planning Commission’s planning committee approved the addition of a contemporary glass floor to a row of late 19th-century townhouses near the San Gaetano parish church in Hamrun.

Approval was granted despite strong objections from the Supervisory Authority for Cultural Heritage (SCH).

The PA had also originally overruled the heritage watchdog by issuing a planning permit in 2018 setting development criteria for the Zawiya site which is located just 15 meters from the church.

In 2020, the PA Court of Appeals overturned the PA’s entire development permit and required new plans to eliminate any large-scale excavation. The latest plans eliminated the underground floors and preserved a reservoir linked to the historic Wignacourt Canal.

But the planning committee headed by Martin Camilleri once again overruled the Supreme Council of Health, by granting final approval for the internal demolition of the houses and the erection of a new glass floor.

Paul Borg’s application is for ground floor retail, and the three-storey office building and two-storey façade of the house will be approved, subject to SCH approval for a restoration method statement.

But the Supreme Council of Health said that the glass floor proposed above was “unacceptable,” noting that it involved “the complete destruction of the houses, with the exception of the entrance hall and facades only.” This, according to SCH, will lead to the demolition of the historical fabric and the destruction of architectural spaces within properties that hold architectural and historical value within the UCA (Urban Conservation Area).

The supervisory body expressed “grave concern” that the proposed heights and volumes would damage the appearance of the streets and would have an “irreversible negative impact on the views and views of Hamrun Parish Church” particularly when viewed along the main thoroughfare, St Joseph’s Main Street.

The SHC said the proposed increase in height and volumes did not comply with the spirit of the church’s Grade I status and the 2020 PA Circular which aims to protect the context of the scheduled buildings.

The supervisory body had previously called for photomontages to assess their impact on the church’s views, but instead of providing a visual assessment based on real photomontages, the developer simply provided a line drawing. The Supreme Council of Health insisted that the images submitted could not be considered a photomontage, as they did not depict the proposal in context, adding that useful photomontages must be based on views within neighboring streets.

The supervisory body also noted that although the predominant height along St Joseph High Street is two-storey houses, the application still proposes a significant increase in heights and volumes at UC. “This increase in height will exceed the height of the neighboring building along Via Grande San Josep and will exceed the prevailing height within the block.”

She said the proposed contemporary design was inconsistent with existing historic properties and the University of Central California, and that this contradicted planning policies intended to create harmony between new and existing buildings.

Hands are tied with the outline permit

The issue raises questions about the detailed permitting system, which often sees the Palestinian Authority approve the bulk and scale of projects before a more detailed assessment is undertaken.

The system was abolished in the 2012 planning reform but was reintroduced by the Department of Employment in 2015. In its objection, the supervisory body also expressed “surprise and great concern that such a detailed permit has been approved, despite the very strong objection expressed by the Department of Employment”. Supervision.”

The development will result in a shortfall of 20 parking spaces, which will be made up by a contribution of €155,000 to the PA Parking Fund. Originally, the project also involved extensive excavation but uncovered a core reservoir associated with the Wignacourt Canal.

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