Guardianship for the restoration of the historic, Knight’s era Qolla l-Bajda Battery in Qbajjar, Gozo, promised by the government to NGO Din L-Art Ħelwa for years, is still awaiting Cabinet approval as the fort continues to deteriorate.
In response to questions about the battery’s guardianship, Culture Minister Owen Bonnici told DLĦ that “the Cabinet has not yet decided to pass it on”, with the decision being deferred to a later date.
The Qbajjar Battery has been slated for DLĦ’s guardianship and restoration since at least 2021, following almost 20 years of indecision by the government and years of inaction and legal battles. Today, it lies in ruins, continuing to deteriorate.
Speaking to The Shift, DLĦ President Alex Torpiano said, “Normally, we would have communication from the government if plans for a historic building’s guardianship are changed”.
He said DLĦ is in regular talks with the Culture Ministry, with Bonnici recently informing DLĦ that another historic building, the San Ċir chapel in Rabat, was approved for their guardianship and restoration, offering no updates about the battery in Gozo.
“When I asked what had happened to the Qbajjar battery, I was informed the Cabinet had not yet decided to pass it on,” Torpiano said.
He did not exclude that “the government may have changed its mind on giving DLĦ guardianship of the battery,” adding, “The important aspect is that the building is properly restored, whether it is passed on to us or a government entity such as Heritage Malta”.
The Shift’s questions to the ministry asking for more information on the status of a guardianship agreement for the battery remain unanswered.
The Shift also attempted to contact Marlene Cini, mayor of Żebbuġ, Gozo. Cini directed The Shift’s questions to her email and subsequently did not respond to any further attempts at communication.
The Qbajjar battery was previously held by La Grotta’s owner, George “Id-Diaz” Said, who held a temporary emphyteusis granted to his company Rook Ltd from 1981 until 2003.
Said fought to retain the battery with years of legal action to stall his eviction, delaying the handing over of the site to heritage organisations for restoration.
Last March, The Shift reported how government bureaucracy further contributed to the delays, with DLĦ having already secured the funding and research for the site’s restoration.
The unexplained bureaucratic delays, Torpiano said, “Imply the places continue to deteriorate, thus losing more original material and making the cost of restoration even higher.”