A new block of apartments is being proposed within Ġgantija’s archaeological buffer zone, in an area characterised by low-lying housing developments.
The application, which is being proposed by Carmel Attard and architect Alexander Bigeni, seeks to demolish the existing house at 38, Triq Mikiel Farrugia, in Xagħra and construct three apartments and a penthouse with underlying garages, domestic stores and a pool.
The area in question, a housing estate consisting of mainly two-storey buildings, is close to several culturally significant sites including the Ġgantija Neolithic temples, the Xagħra Circle and the Ta’ Kola windmill.
All of those are scheduled sites in Gozo. The Ġgantija temple complex is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Site within 200m of Ġgantija Temples
The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage has raised concerns about the considerable height increase of the development, which falls within 120 metres of the windmill and 200 metres from Ġgantija and the Xagħra Circle.
It asked the applicant to submit point of view images of the existing property from the windmill, Ġgantija and the Xagħra Circle, as well as photomontages of the proposed development as it would be seen from the same points.
The cultural watchdog said that a plan showing the property and location the photographs were taken from should also be submitted for a better assessment of the application.
The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage noted that, due to the fact that the proposed development lies in a culturally sensitive area, no rock cutting may occur and all works carried out require archaeological monitoring. It pointed out that, due to this restriction, applicants should be aware that plans for the pool may have to be revised and constructed above rock level as there is a possibility that there might be insufficient depth to construct it as proposed.
It is the second such development to be proposed within the temples’ buffer zone in recent months. Another, separate, application to build an apartment block in the area was suspended by the applicant following widespread uproar that even reached the UK.
Council objects to plans
The Xagħra local council is objecting to the latest development proposal, saying that the construction of apartments will set a precedent on the height limitation of the streetscape.
“This proposal will set a dangerous precedent within this area whereby a currently low lying streetscape, which volumetrically does not impinge on views from the street or from the area around the temples or from other long distance views, would be transformed into an incongruous volume of double the current height,” architect Edward Scerri wrote on behalf of the council
“This would have a negative impact on the setting of the temples and other archaeological sites in the vicinity, apart from the negative impact on the townscape of Xagħra in general.”
Xagħra mayor Christian Zammit said the council was “working hard to tangibly protect the village… This application is not acceptable… in the middle of a housing estate full of two-storey houses and a stone’s throw away from a temple considered to be a world heritage site.”
“I appeal to the applicant to cancel or amend this project and preserve the skyline next to Ġgantija and the Ta’ Kola windmill. Once we ruin Xagħra, there’s no going back,” Zammit said.
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