A Roman tomb just discovered in Qormi will be enclosed in a proposed retail complex in Qormi rather than being made accessible to the public.
This development, described as a Do-It-Yourself retail complex, is earmarked to be built in open fields opposite the Qormi Park and Ride. The rock-cut tomb consists of a rectangular shaft and two small round chambers on either side of the shaft.
It was discovered after developers conducted archaeological investigations on the site in collaboration with the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage.
Cart ruts were also discovered in the area and will be incorporated within a landscaped area that will surround the proposed development.
The Roman tomb will be roofed over and integrated within the new complex in Qormi “in a way that it will remain visible to the public as a heritage feature”.
A restoration method statement presented by architect and former Labour MP Charles Buhagiar reveals that ‘laminated structural glazing’ will be installed on the upper floor, directly overlying the historic tomb.
The statement warns of possible danger to the exposed Roman tomb as it is currently filled with stagnant water and has been left exposed to the elements following the removal of soil from the site, stating that “Water absorbed by the rock cut tomb may be causing damage to the archaeological remains by salt crystallisation.”
Excavation for the laying of foundations of the new development will be set away from the cart ruts by a buffer zone of at least one metre.
During the works a boundary wall will be constructed separating the archaeological cart ruts and the Roman tomb to avoid damage to the archaeological site.
The integration of the tomb in the commercial complex was surprisingly approved by the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage in October 2016. The Superintendence has also approved the relocation of parts of a historical farmhouse which will be restored and re-constructed.The structure has historic value and includes an original coat of arms.
The DIY retail complex is being proposed by Centre Park Holdings, a company owned by Paul Caruana’s Quality Holdings Limited, Anthony Fenech’s Tum Invest and V&C Developments Ltd, which is owned by Charles and Vincent Borg.
Although still pending Planning Authority approval, a notice on the site states that the new outlet will open in December 2018.
The zoning of the land in question was originally designated for warehousing but was changed to accomodate an old people’s home and public community facilities in August 2013, when the site belonged to another owner.
Back then, the old corner building on site had to be conserved as a community centre and the area above the development was to be retained as open space. Development was limited to a maximum floor space of 10,800 m2.
This zoning was then changed to accommodate retail development a few weeks before the last general election.
The new zoning conditions also foresee the relocation of an existing farmhouse to be dismantled and relocated to another part of the site. The developer is obliged to protect archeological remains on the site and to pay for the upkeep of a public open space area. A condition has been imposed to ensure that the interests of licensed fireworks operators who use the surrounding area are not negatively impacted.