Updated 12.30pm with PN statement below.
Two Gozitan environment NGOs and Din L-Art Ħelwa have announced plans to fight for the revocation of a permit awarded recently for the building of an apartment block near the Ġgantija Temples in Gozo.
They warned on Tuesday that the project would pose a very serious threat to the integrity of the temple complex and its buffer zone.
The Ġgantija Temples complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Malta’s most cherished historical landmarks.
The surrounding buffer zone established by UNESCO is essential for safeguarding their cultural and environmental significance, Din L-Art Ħelwa Għawdex, Għawdix and Wirt Għawdex said.
“Sites of such global importance are not up for sale, are not the domain of local developers, governmental authorities and politicians but a gift to the world and it is our duty to protect such sites for this and future generations. There is no room for small minded, petty and outrageously controversial thinking and decisions from people who should know better,” they added.
They said they will be filing a request for the revocation of this permit based on flaws in the approval procedure, errors and incorrect information on which basis the permit was granted.
The NGOs also noted with satisfaction and ‘some relief’, recent strong statements by Heritage Malta and the ‘revised opinion’ of the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage and called on the government and the Planning Authority to do their duty to the nation and the civilized world and stop the environmental vandalism that is being wrought upon the nation.
Times of Malta reported on Sunday that the Superintendence will ask the Planning Authority to freeze the highly-contentious permit. Heritage Malta said it would ‘strongly appeal the decision’.
Business chamber concerns
In a separate statement on Tuesday, the Gozo Business Chamber pointed out that together with the Citadel, Ġgantija is the most important touristic site on the island.
“The UNESCO World Heritage Site categorisation is something which makes the site unique. This means that extreme care and attentiveness should be exercised in the granting of any permits within such buffer zones.”
It said it was imperative that there was greater collaboration in order to ensure that the planning process was truly holistic and took into consideration all the parties concerned.
PN hits out at Heritage Malta, Superintendence for not doing their job
The Nationalist Party in a statement backed plans for an appeal from the PA’s decision and hit out at Heritage Malta and the Superintendence for only coming out against the project in the wake of a public outcry.
It said those organisations had a duty to defend cultural heritage and the public interest from the initial stages of the proposed project and not after the permit was issued.
It said the government should not only not interfere in the decisions of the authorities but also give them the tools so that they could fulfil their duties properly in defence of the national heritage.
The statement was signed by Julia Zahra, spokesperson for culture and the national heritage.