Din l-Art Helwa Press Release – 8th July 2008

Din l-Art Helwa is pleased to note that the Heritage Team at Mepa was vigilant enough to discover important archaeological remains dating to the Temple Period at a demolition site in Tarxien. This site lies within the buffer zone of the Neolithic Temples, and the discovery is being described as the most important discovery in 18 years.

Din l-Art Helwa has long campaigned for the highest level of prudence to be exercised on planning applications within the designated buffer zones of archaeological sites of importance in Malta and Gozo.

For example, Din l-Art Helwa had objected to the approval of application PA 7946/05 to build a house and swimming pool within the buffer zone of the Brochtorff Circle in Xaghra, Gozo, where the majority of the site also lies outside the development zone (ODZ) as well as being a scheduled archaeological area. Unfortunately this permit was granted last November.

In another application, PA 306/06 proposes to build a block of flats in Mgarr within the protected buffer zone of the Ta’ Hagrat temple and which is also outside the development zone. The Ta’ Hagrat temple is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site. This ODZ application has been pending for two years and still has not been rejected.

The construction of new buildings and swimming pools within these buffer zones conflicts with Malta’s responsibilities under the 1972 World Heritage Convention. A 100m buffer zone must be maintained around the periphery of Class A archaeological sites, in which no new development is to be permitted, said the NGO.

Din l-Art Helwa also calls on Mepa to protect the area at Ta’ Cenc in Gozo which has been recommended for scheduling by the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage. This area lies behind the grounds of the existing Ta’ Cenc hotel and around the Tal-Gruwa ridge which overlooks Xewkija, and contains archaeological remains of national importance such as dolmens and their associated features. In this case a buffer zone around each archaeological feature is not the answer. It is important to keep such features within a landscape context without which their true significance will be completely lost.

This area has been identified by the Superintendence as being of national value as a cultural landscape. A current planning application by the owners of the hotel is proposing to build bungalows on part of the area proposed for scheduling by the Superintendence, said Din l-Art Helwa.