Watch: 17th Century Chapel faces damage risk from proposed development

A historical 17th century chapel risks being dwarfed by a proposed development application. St Andrew’s Chapel, which was built in 1657 in an area known as Tal-Qares on the outskirts of Mosta, is threatened by a five storey proposal which is set to appear in front of the Planning Authority’s board later on this month. The chapel and the proposed development are separated by a mere 4m distance. The Case Officer report is recommending the Board to issue a refusal.

A full planning application was received in March last year, which is proposing to demolish an existing building and replace it with a basement level garage, two maisonettes at ground floor level, two apartments from first floor level to second floor level and a duplex penthouse with a pool from third floor level to receded floor level. Another application on a site adjacent to the chapel has been suspended on request of the architect. The suspended application proposes the construction of 99 apartments.

Objectors raise concerns about possible direct damage

The Archdiocese of Malta, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar (FAA), Din l-Art Ħelwa, and the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage were among those which filed an objection against the development. In their objections, the different entities raised some of the following issues: that the proposed excavation could lead to direct damage to the existing 17th century chapel of St Andrew and its parvis, as well as other potentially undiscovered archaeological artefacts relating to the area’s history. Another issue raised by those objecting was the direct negative impact of the chapel, which is extremely close to the site, saying that the proposed 5 storey building will dwarf the chapel as well as contrast negatively with the surrounding character of the area.

The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage raised similar concerns and requested the redesign and resubmission of documents. The Superintendence asked for specific requirements to be met, saying it would otherwise object to the proposed development. The Superintendence noted that the criteria were not satisfied, thus upholding their objection. visited the chapel and met with the Curia’s Administrative Secretary Michael Pace Ross. In his comments, Pace Ross explained that while they were not against development at all costs, the development threatens the chapel.

“Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Asked if the Curia would be objecting against the other application, Pace Ross stressed that two wrongs do not make a right. He underlined the need that such national heritage be safeguarded. Pace Ross explained that given the close proximity, the chapel might suffer from structural damages due to the use of heavy machinery during the development.

‘Recommendation: REFUSE’

The Case Officer outlines two grounds on which the application should be refused. The proposed development according to the Case Officer does not give due consideration to the principles aimed at protecting and enhancing architectural quality and visual aspect. Furthermore, the proposed development runs counter to the provisions for the building line.

According to the Development Control Design Policy, Guidance and Standards of 2015, the external design of all new developments should seek to provide visual interest. According to this policy, the new development should take the chapel into consideration.
Sant’Andrija Chapel

The Chapel was built in circa 1657 to serve the local farming communities. Archaeological remains have been found and evidence of established cart ruts were discovered in the area.

The chapel was restored back in 2002. A detailed survey was carried out which suggested the structural repairs and restoration necessary in 2000. In 2002, the numerous fissure cracks which ran along the corners were repaired as well as the barrel vault ceiling and facade of the chapel.