The Żebbuġ, Gozo local council has urged the Lands Authority to finalise a long-promised agreement which will see the historic Knights-era battery in Qbajjar passed on to NGO Din l-Art Ħelwa for restoration and guardianship.
In comments to The Shift, the local council’s vice-mayor Daniel Cordina said the battery’s restoration is critical and that “there is no space for delay” as the building “is reaching its end.”
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Cordina said the local council would be sending a letter to the Lands Authority calling on it to finalise the agreement. Cordina told The Shift “The battery needs to be restored and given back to the people,” adding “All that is needed is a final signature.”
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.
In a statement on Facebook on Monday, DLĦ said a clean-up it organised at the historic building “was a dire reminder of how quickly heritage sites deteriorate when abandoned.”
“The structural damage is evident and is clearly getting more pressing, with winter storms bound to cause more,” they said.
In September, The Shift reported how 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 Shift had previously contacted Marlene Cini, mayor of Żebbuġ, Gozo. Cini had directed The Shift’s questions to her email and subsequently did not respond to any further attempts at communication. Questions sent to the culture ministry similarly remain unanswered.
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.
Continued government bureaucracy further contributed to the delays, with DLĦ having already secured the funding and research for the site’s restoration.
DLĦ President Alex Torpiano had said the unexplained bureaucratic delays “Imply the places continue to deteriorate, thus losing more original material and making the cost of restoration even higher.”