Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar welcomed the Planning Authority’s decision to refuse to grant a permit for the construction of a 5-storey apartment block in the Xagħra Urban Conservation Area as it called for increased protection of Gozo’s heritage and quality of life.
The FAA noted that the permit was denied on the strength of a policy issued last March with the backing of Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia, which stipulates that the effects of recent developments should be lessened rather than worsened to improve the overall context of the historic building. This, the NGO added, went contrary to the recent practice “where past eyesores are taken as a precedent to justify further uglification.”
But while this policy was in place, FAA warned that the protection of the surroundings remained subject to the discretion of the PA boards, leading it to call for its legal ratification to ensure that it applies fairly and uniformly to all projects.
It also called for the immediate rescinding of the “infamous” DC 15 Annex 1 building heights, which was allowing increased buildings heights across the country – including within buffer zones.
“These 5 and 6 storey buildings are destroying village cores and creating unsightly party walls which are supposedly illegal in urban conservation areas. Gozo skylines are fast being destroyed by such vast expanses of walls rising up in supposedly 2/3 storey areas, marring traditional vistas,” the FAA maintained.
It warned of recent development applications including large hotel blocks and holiday flats in Xlendi, Xagħra, Nadur and Qala that “will wreck the quality of life of old-established communities.”
“These developments are fast ruining the beauty of Gozo’s characteristic villages, the very quality that tourists seek out, therefore undermining tourism that Gozo depends upon. It is up to our politicians to ensure that the PA ceases to be a Permitting Authority and assumes its responsibility as a Planning Authority to ensure Gozo’s economic future, as well as residents’ quality of life,” the NGO concluded.