Several unsightly canopies, making a Grade 1 scheduled building on Senglea’s majestic fortifications resemble a circus rather than a historical building, have been recently erected as part of the five-star Gran Macina Grand Harbour Hotel.
The canopies, accompanied by closed retractable doors used as a restaurant, are visible across the Grand Harbour, particularly from the Birgu waterfront, reserved for multi-million-euro super yachts and upmarket tourism.
Research conducted by The Shift shows that while the erection of the canopies appears to be recent, no permit could be found on the Planning Authority server, pointing towards an illegal development.
However, when explicitly asked whether the recently added development was given the Planning Authority’s green light, if any, the authority’s spokesman failed to reply.
The only recent development application concerning Il-Macina goes back to the start of this year when Senglea Hotel Operations Ltd, the company managing the hotel, applied for an extension of an exterior lift to the historic building’s roof and the building of a bridge connecting it to the Grade 1 scheduled fortification.
The PA did not yet issue its recommendation amid objections by the Isla local council and the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage, which expressed its “grave concern” over this application, filed by Architect Edwin Mintoff.
While asking for more details, including photomontages of how this proposed development will look if eventually built, the concern focused on “the proposed extension of the lift which increases the height and will make it stand proud on the surrounding structures rendering it evidently conspicuous”.
The local council described the proposal as unfitting for its surroundings and asked for further clarifications.
Part of the majestic harbour fortifications dating back to the era of the Knights of Malta, Il-Macina lies within an Urban Conservation Area of Senglea and is classified as an Area of High Landscape Value for the Harbour Fortifications.
The Harbour Fortifications are scheduled at Grade 1 and placed on the tentative list for inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Until a few years ago, il-Macina also served as the headquarters of the Malta Labour Party until its move to a more modern building in Hamrun.
It was privatised a few years ago and turned into a hotel.
The company managing the hotel and the rest of the building, which it rents out to third parties, is owned by Curacao-based Van Der Heyden Group.
Please read the Group’s response here.