Harsien Patrimonju Mosti

 

AUTUMN - DECEMBER 2011 & 2012


21st September 2011

Last appeal hearing concluded. Decision in June 2012!!!

 The last appeal sitting was held on Tuesday, the 20th September 2011 at 11.30am. Two representatives of the authority were called in to testify. The issue discussed concerns one of the major bones of contention: The fact that the greater part of the land granted for development is designated as an Area of Ecological Importance. This is indicated on MEPA's own servers.

The witnesses borne by the authority's representatives, which included a director, were at best very lacking, as anybody present in that room could assert.

None of the questions asked by Nature Trust's case architect, Carmel Cacopardo were clearly replied to and showed a wholesome lack of detailed knowledge about this case or preparation for this sitting.

In any case, the board adjourned the hearing for the 20th June 2012 (!), on which day the final decision shall be proclaimed. Nature Trust was given 2 months to submit its claims, which were duly posted on November 21st.

Since this case is one of many still being reviewed using the former system, the developer is allowed to proceed irrespective of the pending appeal decision.
Despite the board being aware of this and that works are underway, no effort was made to move this decision date forward.

Considering that preliminary rock cutting works have already commenced, by June next year there would be nothing to save other than a huge gaping hole.

HPM asks what is the validity of allowing this to happen, then ruling against the developer and making sure he returns to site to its original state!
The least the board could have done to mitigate the damage and prevent the developers from losing time, resources and money, would have been to assign an early decision date.

But this only makes sense if the developers are actually ruled against.
On the other hand, if the Appeal Tribunal decides in favour of the said developers, all will simply proceed with normality and the project would carry on unhindered.

Hence, if one had to go by logic, and also take into consideration the ample confidence generated by the developers, then the probable outcome of this appeal is of major concern.

Justice delayed is no justice as much as ruling in favour of saving something that has just been obliterated. In this case, the date for the decision has been set 9 months ahead of the last sitting, 7 of which shall be needed to review the facts and take a decision.

As far as this goes, one can only wait and see. We sincerely hope that our concerns do not become a reality. All we seek is justice after all!

If it is just to destroy the heart of a world recognised site in favour of concrete flats and garages, then so be it!!

December 2011


HPM is reproducing a report made to Mr. Walker in his capacity of MEPA Chairman submitted on November 30th, 2011. In Essence it gives a clear idea of what is going on within Wied Il-Ghasel's core. It also reveals the general attitude of the developers in question, and also that of our Environment Planning Authority (MEPA).

URGENT

Dear Mr. Walker,

On Tuesday, the 29th November, 2011, representatives of HPM, FAA and Wied il-Ghasel Residential Association called at MEPA for a meeting with your director of enforcement, the regional manager, and 2 case officers (enforcement officials).

HPM presented a report showing that the Girna has been damaged despite several conditions and a hefty bank guarantee having been set by the Authority. Photographic evidence supported our claims.

We are reproducing our evidence as presented to Mr. Alex Borg (black text only) in his capacity of Director of Enforcement at MEPA as well as the outcome of our efforts.


Dear Sir,
We would like to draw your attention to the yet another serious breach of permit conditions related to case PA/05560 at 146/148, Constitution Street, Mosta.
Earlier this year, the developer resumed works on site after having been suspended by this authority in 2009.
These works however were carried out in haste and with major disregard of the stipulated conditions, prompting HPM to update MEPA about this lack of adherence. This was duly verified as per your report dated 01.08.2011 whereby works on site were suspended for the second time.
Over the last weeks, works have been carried out to rectify the damage and breaches committed so far. However it transpires that trenching works have also been resumed, specifically by means of a rock cutting machine.
We hereby are submitting evidence of yet another act of defiance in the face of this authority as well as our own. Despite a hefty financial, and all sorts of other guarantees, as per MEPA’s own press release about such, the Girna has suffered the first damages.


The trencher (shown above) was allowed to run into the foundation stone of the corbelled hut cutting a deep swathe into the structure. This damage is permanent and irreversible. Damage by the considerable vibrations created by such large machinery has also occurred but needs further examination and in its greater part may be latent. This is highly probable when considering the fragility of such huts, due to both their age and construction method/s.



All this in view of the fact that irrespective of whether this was a direct attempt to damage, or even destroy the Girna or an ‘accidental’ cutting of its base, the developer was clearly instructed to keep away from it and take specific measures for its protection.          
                                                                                                     
The rubble wall which constitutes an integral part of the structure has also been considerably damaged when the prickly pear bushes were removed.


                
Damage to trees and similar shrubs on the other side of the wall, belonging to third parties has also been noticed. This damage could have been avoided had the developer notified the owners of the adjacent property to be present and had other means to remove the prickly pears been adopted rather than the large bulldozer used.


(Photo taken in adjacent property showing some of the damage to trees.)
 
Another large tree in the same property with some of its branches hanging over a high wall was damaged due to these branches having been snapped and broken off rather than cut with the required diligence.
HPM expects that immediate regulatory action be taken at once and that the damages be examined and duly rectified. HPM is calling for the revocation of this permit due to relapsing nature of the developers as well as repeated disrespect towards the permit conditions as well as the law.

With thanks

Secretary - Harsien Patrimonju Mosti.          

As for the meeting itself, when we confronted the enforcement officials with the photos above, they insisted that no infringement had been made since the cutting was done at the base and under the Girna, and this was permissible since the developers had permission to excavate a number of storeys underneath it.

From our end, we argued that granted that this was the case, excavating under it is different from cutting directly into its base.  At that point, one of the officers had the boldness to put forth an assumption that perhaps the developer did so in view of running an iron beam through its base, perhaps in order to strengthen the structure.

Irrespective of our conclusions about such an idea coupled with our disbelief and surprise at his attempt to explain why the developers might have done such a thing, this is no less than an admission in front of his own superiors and 5 witnesses that the act of cutting through the base / foundation did occur. This contradicts earlier claims, that the Girna has not been touched.

This statement however also brought to light another extremely disturbing factor, namely the attitude we were met with. Although we were cordially greeted, the executives immediately lapsed into a highly defensive mode.

One wonders why, since if things are as they should be, and as stated to be on paper, environmental NGOs and heritage watchdogs are allied to Enforcement bodies within the Malta Environment Planning Authority and neither rivals nor foes.

This since both should be following the same aim, such being the protection of our assets, particularly those of importance and covered by law.

We were considerably disturbed at the lack of objectivity one would have expected from these officials, and particularly the case officers. One more than one occasion, the Director requested his officers to tone down their constant attempts at justifying the developers' actions.                                   

An example of this relates to their insistent claim that it is not in the interest of the developers to lose their guarantee and have nothing at all to gain from the Girna's demolition!

These people are employed to monitor such sites/ cases looking out for any irregularities, be they intentional or otherwise, and to take the necessary regulatory action as determined by law, by their job specifications, and by the very mission statement of the authority they work for.

So we cannot understand how these, of all people, are trying to justify and dismiss each and every of our claim, despite being shown photos of the damages, which may be seen and verified by all here. As far as this is concerned we leave the burden of drawing conclusions to you!

It was through them that we learned that some stones from the Girna's base had been shaken out of place and come lose, but were re-inserted in place by the developer. Although we were not aware of this factor before this meeting, it only proves what we stated about the other less immediately visible  damages created by an incursion made into the structure's base and directly under it by heavy machinery.

When questioned, the developers said that unidentified 3rd parties had prised the stones lose. One wonders how such an act of sabotage that might cost them thousands of euros and further complications was not immediately reported to the police!

Nevertheless, since the stones were put back in place, the inspectors did not deem fit to take any regulatory action. This despite the fact that the developers should not even have come close to the Girna, since it should have been surrounded by large stone blocks BEFORE any works on site have begun. This was specified by their own director.

This is also in contrast with MEPA's press release of last spring where it was made clear that no tolerance would be shown of any damage is done to this structure and unless immediate steps are taken to preserve it in its integrity!

Upon a direct question by their director, the inspectors confirmed that the extent of the said incursion is between 4 and 5 feet in diameter and extends from one outer side right down into and under its wall and base.

Our report also makes reference to damage to 3rd party property, which in part happens to be a boundary rubble wall. This wall is the very same that constitutes one of the Girna's sides.

In reply to our claims we were duly informed by the Director Borg that they had instructions to monitor and protect the Girna, but made it clear that no mention had been made about the wall.

We inquired how this was possible since the wall and the Girna were one and the same structure, also making reference to the documented fact that while similar stone huts dot other countries around the world, the only place on Earth where examples built directly into rubble walls is Malta.

The meeting was then concluded as follows. Our claims shall be forwarded to the heritage unit who would then decide whether any action is to be taken with regards to the damage of the Girna and its wall. At worst the developers will lose their bank guarantee, but despite everything, work shall still be allowed to carry on.

As for the developers' views and intentions, these are clearly perceivable in a report drawn up by their consultants 2 years ago stating that since the Girna does not feature in survey sheets before 1968 it is a pseudo-girna built after that period. The last clause of their report states the following:                 

“1.6. In view of the above (points 1.1.-1.5 all related exclusively to survey sheets), a definitive dating to the rural structure must be post-1968.”

The rest of the report follows suit in attempting to dismiss the value of this Girna, and bears heavily on the ‘fact’ that it is a “small rural room dated to the later part of the twentieth century” and concludes that “The vernacular value of this particular rural room is less than that of a pseudo-girna.”

And yet, we hereby present images from the 1940s as well as the 1880s showing the fields. Not only was the Girna already there, but one can clearly see that it is the only, and oldest structure / building in the entire vicinity.

             Above: 1880 circa                                      Below:1943