Updated 12.50pm with Għal Għawdex comments
Plans to require all new buildings in Gozo to have limestone facades have drawn positive reactions from Gozitan tourism, business and civil society stakeholders.
The Gozo Tourism Association said news of the planned policy shift was “a breath of fresh air”, while the Gozo Business Chamber said it was happy to see Gozo being treated as a distinct region with its own needs, rather than as part of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ national strategy.
There was similar praise from stakeholder collective Għal Għawdex, which said the announced change would help drive economic prosperity while protecting and preserving Gozo’s distinctiveness and heritage.
Planning Minister Clint Camilleri revealed the plan to require stone facades in an interview with Malta Today on Sunday,
Camilleri, who is an architect by profession and from Gozo, said the change would ensure new buildings matched Gozo’s traditional architectural aesthetic and that the requirement would also apply to the backside of buildings overlooking Outside Development Zone (ODZ) areas.
Tourism stakeholders pleased
The GTA said on Monday that the policy change chimes with its views on development in Gozo.
“The farmhouse concept developed years ago as well as the recent development of several boutique hotels all built restored and renovated in local stone were the catalysts for a niche type of accommodation synonymous with the island of Gozo. The Gozo Tourism Association has always been in favour of development, that respects the character of the existing buildings and environment and that enhances Gozo as a unique tourist destinatio,” it said.
It described the new plan as “a breath of fresh air in the development frenzy taking place presently on Gozo,” and noted that the change was also in line with the ‘Island of Villages’ concept for Gozo unveiled last year.
It said it hoped the change would serve as a building block for future development in Gozo.
Business stakeholders want regional policies
The Gozo Business Chamber said it hoped Camilleri’s proposal was a first step in adopting a regional outlook to policy-making “which takes into consideration the context of the island and preserves its distinct characteristics.
“Many a times in fact Gozo has been impacted negatively from national policies which did not take into consideration the particular characteristics and needs of this island region,” it said.
Forum hopes to see more, similar initiatives
Għal Għawdex, which brings together both the GTA and Gozo Chamber alongside various Gozo-focused NGOs and councils, said the initiative was a positive one which should be the first of many such regional policies.
It also noted that the policy needed to be accompanied by strict enforcement and the elimination of planning loopholes.
Camilleri’s proposal was also met positively by the Malta Development Association, which said on Sunday that having stone facades would help give Gozo its distinct architectural identity.
The GTA has in the past months also called for a complete ban on all excavation and demolition works across Gozo during summer months. Developers pushed back against that idea, saying it would be too drastic. They have instead suggested banning all construction-related activity in key Gozitan tourism areas during summer.