Malta’s top-rated restaurant promises (again) to remove illegal structures

MTA distances itself from Michelin awards despite sponsorship

 

The owner of Valletta’s ION Harbour, a restaurant that forms part of the Iniala Hotel on the capital’s St Barbara Bastion, has promised for a second time to remove a massive illegal structure from which it operates, which has drawn the attention of world heritage organisation UNESCO, among others.

Just a few weeks ago, the internationally acclaimed Michelin Guide awarded Iniala’s rooftop restaurant two stars – making it the first ever restaurant on the island to acquire such recognition.

In a ceremony attended by Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo and the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) management, which sponsors the whole award-giving process, praise was showered on the restaurant and its chef.

Yet this announcement and its accompanying marketing were much less easily digested by national heritage experts and environmental NGOs because what is now being dubbed Malta’s most distinguished restaurant is operating out of an illegal development.

Its main selling point, a massive rooftop canopy structure, is illegal and was put in place without any permit or authorisation from the Planning Authority.

Despite the objections of UNESCO and the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, no enforcement has been implemented.

The illegal structure on top of the Iniala Hotel overlooking St Barbara Bastions in Valletta.

Michelin Guide failed to reply to questions by The Shift about whether they were aware of the restaurant’s illegalities.

The MTA, which has a five-year agreement to sponsor the Michelin Guide process in Malta, distanced itself from the latest selection process.

“The Michelin Guide determines the criteria on the basis of which restaurants are assessed, and the awards given are at its absolute and unfettered discretion,” a spokesman insisted.

The MTA did not provide the requested information on the cost of the five-year agreement with the Michelin Guide to taxpayers, saying it was “commercially sensitive.”

Similar agreements abroad with different tourism organisations cost between €100,000 and €250,000 annually.

When asked by The Shift, the restaurant’s owner, Mark Weingard, admitted that the illegal structure was still in place. He repeated what he told The Shift last year, that he intended to remove the illegalities.

“We have suspended our planning application and are in discussions with the relevant bodies to substitute the current cover that is over a part of our terrace with a design that is acceptable,” Weingard told The Shift.

According to the Planning Authority’s system, the latest application (PA3494/22) filed by Weingard’s architect, Paul Camilleri, was still active, dating back to 2022 for the sanctioning of the illegal structure.

UNESCO was among the first to object to the latest application, insisting that the structure should be completely removed as it marred Valletta’s views.

The local Superintendence of Cultural Heritage also condemned the illegal development in the strongest terms, declaring that “the unauthorised glazed enclosure is completely unacceptable and damaging to the cultural heritage values of Valletta.”

Meanwhile, Weingard, together with Decesare’s Eden Leisure Group, is in the running for a government concession to turn the iconic Evans Building in Valletta into a deluxe hotel.

Although the government signaled its preference to pass on the building to the Weingard/Decesare group an objection was filed by rival competitors accusing the government of a vitiated competitive process.

                           

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11 Comments
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simon oosterman
simon oosterman
12 days ago

Enforcement is un-Maltese, almost treasonous!

Paul Bonello
Paul Bonello
12 days ago

We allow Cabinet Ministers to appropriate heritage and artefacts for themselves, unpunished and re-elected by acclamation. We allow Neanderthal property speculators to deface our villages snd landscapes. And we allow foreigners to run havoc with our prime sites in perfect colonial style. But then, if us Maltese have no respect for our culture and heritage, why would foreigners only intent on making money here in Malta, respect same themsrlves?

Greed
Greed
11 days ago
Reply to  Paul Bonello

Simona will be the new heritage minister soon?

S. Camilleri
S. Camilleri
12 days ago

Our “authorities” are tragically comic. The sheriffs are on the side of the outlaws. The lawless are the real authorities who decide the nature and timing of any sham enforcement. What a great country we live in

Pony Express
Pony Express
11 days ago

U issa ara dan x ala il UNESCO and the rest. Tghid ma jaghmilx hekk barra minn Malta u jhalluh jopera. Mela ma tafux li qedin Malta…..pajjiz il Mickey mouse, jew?

Anon
Anon
11 days ago

L-aqwa li jmorru jipoppaw jixorbu ghand Mark Weingard. Dak l-aqwa!

james
james
11 days ago
Reply to  Anon

b’xejn

Hugh Canblomee
Hugh Canblomee
5 days ago
Reply to  Anon

Umgawa!

Aggie
Aggie
11 days ago

Easy solution, remove it or lose your Michelin Stars 🌟, bet it would be down overnight!

Toni Norg
Toni Norg
11 days ago

A lawless country!!

Hugh Jars
Hugh Jars
9 days ago

Is anything legal in Malta??????

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