Maltatoday, Sunday 22nd June 2008, by James Debono
The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage has called on MEPA to schedule the entire Ta’ Cenc area, a measure which would preclude any development in this sensitive stretch of land, including the proposed 36 villas at Tal-Gruwa, and 38 villas at Mgarr ix-Xini.
For its part, government has already made it clear that any further development on Mgarr ix-Xini would be contrary to the Gozo and Comino Local Plan.
In its annual report, the Superintendence also revealed that during its inspections of the area extending from the entire Ta’ Cenc plateau towards the valley and the bay of Mgarr ix-Xini, several previously unknown archaeological features were discovered.
“This led to a better understanding of the archaeological and historical sensitivity of the area as a whole,” the report states.
In October 2006 MaltaToday had already revealed that the superintendence wrote to MEPA expressing concern on the impact of the proposed Ta’ Cenc development on the area overlooking Xewkija.
But now the superintendence is calling for the whole area to be protected, and is asking MEPA to schedule the 19th century British barracks at Fort Chambray.
In November 2007 MaltaToday revealed that MEPA’s own internal heritage watchdog was objecting to the demolition of the barracks and to the development of a five-storey hotel and a seven-storey building on the already over-built Chambray site.
The superintendence is now calling on MEPA to issue a “master plan” to ensure that future development at Fort Chambray is carried out in respect of the “surviving historical fabric of the monument.”
The superintendence also objects to the proposed demolition of World War II structures at San Niklaw in Siggiewi, which are set to be replaced by a cattle breeding complex. “The San Niklaw strip is the best preserved example of a World War II military airstrip in the Maltese island,” the report says.
The airfield was used as a WWII decoy to lure German bombers away from Luqa and played an important part in British plans to liberate Sicily. Qrendi-based Spitfires would escort bombers and transport aircraft to support Allied troops in Sicily, and were also used in bombing sorties.