Works on two adjacent parcels of land at Wied Bufula in Wardija, ostensibly reconstructing traditional rubble walls, have expanded into what locals have called “an environmental scar” by uprooting several mature trees in the area’s picturesque terraced fields.
Two permits for the area for the “maintenance, reconstruction and reinstatement of the rubble walls” were approved last May despite both having been recommended for refusal by the Planning Authority’s case officer and both lacking the required endorsement by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and the Environment and Resources Authority.
Locals who contacted The Shift on condition of anonymity claimed that “the development went far beyond that described in the permits and involved the uprooting of protected trees and the levelling of land.”
The works, which cover an area reportedly around 30 tumoli in size, the equivalent of around 34,000 square metres, or almost five football pitches, were applied for by Joseph Cremona in 2021 with Stanley Cortis serving as the architect.
Cremona applied for the permits’ (PA/6047/21 and PA/7058/21) approval on behalf of Ghajn Rasul Ltd, a company listed as being directed by Saviour and Andrew Cremona.
The case officer reports point out that the land in question is scheduled as having high landscape value. The reports state that the “interventions cannot be favourably accepted” since they run counter to legal notices that protect existing rubble walls.
In its consultation with the application, the Environment and Resources Authority noted that “the walls will be increased significantly in height,” asserting that “the introduction of parapet walls is not acceptable” and that “the proposed interventions will lead to significant negative visual impacts and incompatibly with the natural surrounding environment.”
It further stated that “The site in question is heavily characterised with vegetation,” and that “it is therefore unclear how works on site will be carried out without degrading or clearing the existing vegetation and obliterating the natural state of the site during demolition and construction works”.
While noting that “not all rubble walls are in a dilapidated state,” the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage also noted a traditional girna on site which had been improperly noted by the applicant and it urged for its protection.
The case officer report also notes an “illegal hunters hide within the site” and called for its sanctioning or removal before the application was to be considered further.
Despite the issues raised by various entities and that both case officer reports recommended for the applications’ refusal, both permits were granted in April 2022, with recently started works creating the exact “negative visual impacts” that had been predicted.