The Sliema and St Julian’s local councils and NGO Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar (FAA) and Balluta Mansions Action Group have made fresh calls for the protection of the Villa St Ignatius in Balluta, in a press conference on Saturday morning.
A planning application by developer Paul Gauci, proposes to turn the 19th-century villa into a 64-room hotel by building an additional three floors.
The proposal, widely reported last year, faces fresh protests following the issue of a go-ahead for the project from the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage (SCH).
In a press release before the conference, FAA claimed the SCH has “betrayed its mission” by “giving its go-ahead to a senseless project… with high buildings totally overwhelming and spoiling this heritage jewel and destroying an important part of it.”
In comments last year, the project’s architect, Antoine Zammit, claimed the proposal considered the villa’s historical value and would “elevate the villa’s architectural and historical status.”
The SCH did not object to the proposed development in its recent submission to the Planning Authority application for the project (PA/1911/23).
FAA and the Balluta Mansions Action Group have called for the villa to be scheduled as Grade 1, the highest level of protection afforded to historical buildings in Malta.
In a statement ahead of the conference, the NGOs said the project “violates regulations prohibiting hotels in residential areas,” claiming it will “ruin the surrounding environment and the quality of life of residents in the neighbourhood.”
NGO Din l-Art Ħelwa had previously objected to the project, claiming it would “detract the architectural homogeneity of the existing vernacular building.”
The conference was attended by retired lawyer and area resident Franco Vassallo, Sliema Mayor John Pillow and St Julian’s Mayor Guido Dalli.