Modern EU-funded Valletta tourist attraction remains closed for over a year

Culture Minister Owen Bonnici and Heritage Malta, the government agency responsible for the management of museums and cultural attractions, are refusing to explain why one of the most-visited tourist attractions in Valletta has been left closed for months on end.

Inaugurated in 2013 following a €1.7 million investment comprised mostly of European Union funding, The Fortress Builders – a modern interpretation centre on the history of Malta’s fortifications – has had its doors closed for more than a year.

While hundreds of tourists, particularly those crossing by ferry from Sliema, make the centre their first stop in Valletta, they are now being greeted with a small sign informing them that the centre is “temporarily closed”.

Asked by The Shift to explain why such a modern tourist attraction has been kept closed for months on end, neither Minister Owen Bonnici nor his spokesperson, Bernice Farrugia, attempted an explanation. Neither were any replies forthcoming when asked about any future plans for the centre or when it is expected to be reopened.

The Shift is informed that the centre, originally managed by the Restoration Unit within the Culture Ministry, ceased functioning when it was assigned to Heritage Malta a few months ago.

Although no reason for its abrupt closure was given to employees, many suspect it was another cost-cutting exercise as Heritage Malta has been haemorrhaging financially due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the mismanagement plaguing the agency.

Concerns are also being raised at EU level since the restoration of the late 16th-century building next to St Andrew’s Bastion and its conversion into a modern multi-media interpretation facility was funded through a significant injection of EU funds, which are now not being used for their intended purpose.

Asked in parliament earlier this year to explain the situation at the centre, Minister Bonnici gave only a vague explanation, stating that Heritage Malta is working to convert it into a museum about Valletta. However, no tangible plans are in place and the minister refused to commit to a re-opening deadline.

Sources close to the centre told The Shift that thousands of visitors used to visit the building every week and were impressed by its modern facilities and detailed explanations of Malta’s breathtaking bastions. In 2015 the centre was awarded a Trip Advisor certificate of excellence.

Heritage Malta has been hitting the headlines in recent months with stories connected to the abuse of power, mismanagement, and financial difficulties.

The agency is led by Mario Cutajar, a Labour Party militant who, before being made Heritage Malta chairman had served as the head of the Public Service, and chief executive officer Noel Zammit.

                           
                           
                               
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simon oosterman
simon oosterman
1 month ago

Par for the course in today’s Malta.

simon oosterman
simon oosterman
1 month ago

This is a site aimed at ‘quality tourists’, which the authorities are seemingly not really interested in.

Greed
Greed
1 month ago

Perhaps it will be given to JP to look after?

Richard Slater
Richard Slater
1 month ago

And someone whispers ‘It would make a nice hotel though wouldn’t it?

Noel Ciantar
Noel Ciantar
1 month ago

Could it be that they are turning it into a restaurant, like that other EU funded interpretation centre on the Dingli Cliffs in Dingli, Malta?

The Auditor General found that the Dingli site was leased by the Dingli Local Council to a private company after a call for tender (issued in October 2007) which did not specify any commercial activity or use for the site. However, facts show that in January 2008, Ian Borg (who is now Malta’s Foreign Minister), in his then capacity as Mayor of Dingli, submitted a development application on the site requesting its use for, among other things, catering.

But the Planning Authority had already issued an Outline Development Permit in 2005 stating clearly that sale of food or drinks on site was to be limited to vending machines.

In deciding Borg’s application for a Full Development Permit (number PA/00425/18, issued in 2010), the Planning Authority was clear that in view of the Outline Development Permit, no catering was being permitted on site. In fact, I am informed that a Full Development Permit must respect any Outline Development Permit relative to the same development. Otherwise what is the purpose of an Outline Development Permit?

This all said, the Auditor General did not identify any of these issues as meriting serious action to stop the restaurant activity and limit the activity on site to that permitted.

My recent request to the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee to investigate the case remains in limbo.

Hence why Malta is a failed state.

Last edited 1 month ago by Noel Ciantar
carlos
1 month ago
Reply to  Noel Ciantar

And in limbo it will stay, as mr orgasm is even worse than lorry sant.
Shame on you ianb, it did take you long to learn the tricks of corruption.

Paul
Paul
1 month ago

follow the money left from europe and find out where it went, Heritage is making the construction magnates rich on this island

carlos
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul

you forgot the word CORRUPT before construction magnates.

carlos
1 month ago

L’aqwa li thallsu l-commissions.

Aggie
Aggie
1 month ago

Once again, someone with no experience or qualifications for the job is given a position because of who he knows.

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