Vigilo magazine, October 2010

It is very noticeable that a lot of new works are being carried out in Valletta. This will surely lead to a much improved capital city over the next few years. Valletta has been run down and shabby for far too long.

At first every new change presents itself as an inconvenience – whether a road is being repaved, the façade of a building cleaned up, or a new traffic system put in place. However eventually we grow accustomed to the changes and welcome the improvements.

I remember the time when South Street was pedestrianised a few years ago. The idea of not being able to drive in and out of Valletta through that street seemed complicated, however now I have forgotten all about it. I used to park my car in Valletta every day. Now I park outside the city walls and it seems like a sensible thing to do.

However the changes that we are about to experience when Pope Pius V Street over the existing City Gate is closed off, will require some meticulous planning. I hope that this change will be implemented carefully and smoothly.

The national ‘car-free day’ promoted in September demonstrated clearly that unless the public transport system is improved, people simply will not give up their cars. Parking spaces around Valletta, at reasonable and affordable prices, must be provided for people who visit and work in Valletta. Park-and-ride is not enough.

Din l-Art Helwa is also doing its bit to contribute to the cleaning up of Valletta. We recently coordinated the conservation of the Great Siege monument opposite the Law Courts, a masterpiece by the well-known Maltese sculptor Antonio Sciortino. We are now engaged in the conservation of the Queen Victoria statue outside the National Library. We are grateful to have enjoyed the support and enthusiasm of corporate sponsors for both these projects.

Last year we had undertaken the restoration of the Vilhena Lion statue in East Street. We have other similar projects in mind for next year. Valletta and Floriana have some fine public monuments and beautiful niche statues, however many of them are crying out for maintenance or restoration. It is essential that this is done professionally, as the unintentional damage done through ill-advised restoration methods can be very difficult to reverse.

The Marsamxett side of Valletta down near the ferry launch is in a disastrous state. The attractive old police station is functioning as a restaurant, but the quaint old customs house behind it is in a shambles. It is a pity that this area has not yet been the focus of a ‘regeneration project’ like the Valletta Waterfront. This could be such a picturesque harbour area, but instead it is a mess and resembles a small shanty town.

The new museum of fortifications just further up from the harbour on Biagio steps is underway, and the additional floor is already being constructed. The new restaurant under the bastion walls, which had won a Din l-Art Helwa diploma last year, is also close by. It would be good to see more attention being given to this harbour side of Valletta. Better facilities in this area might also encourage more people to use the ferry service to Sliema and cut down on some traffic.