A cluster of three blocks of flats by three developers is set to replace an enclave of fields within the development zone, and ruin the setting of an old farmhouse and windmill at the periphery of the urban conservation area in Xewkija.
Largest block by Thomas Grech, a name that has been associated with other ongoing planning applications of Joseph Portelli's and his partners.
The three blocks together amount to 92 flats, 117 garages, and six shops – all crammed into an area only as large as half a football pitch. They are located along a planned road that is planned to open in Mgarr Road, Gozo’s busiest road.
The developments rise to five floors in an area that is characterized by two-storey townhouses on three sides, including the old, loggia-filled house that sits within the protected urban conservation area. They are also near the recently-restored Tat-Tmien Kantunieri Windmill, which is situated less than 70 metres from the nearest of the three blocks.
That block, consisting of 44 flats and 4 shops and underground parking for 69 cars, actually impinges on the Urban Conservation Area – and would loom over the old farmhouse.
In relation to the 44-flat block, the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage wrote to the Planning Authority to express “grave concerns about such extensive and unsustainable development within the Urban Conservation Area of Xewkija that will commit the entire area.”
The application has been put in by Thomas Grech, a name that has been associated with two other ongoing planning applications by Joseph Portelli and his partners.
A Thomas Grech is construction manager for PRA Construction Limited, a company owned by Portelli, and his partners Daniel Refalo and the Agius brothers (Ta Dirjanu).
Permits for the other two blocks in Xewkija have already been granted. These are 19 flats and 2 shops granted to contractor Jason Saliba, and an adjoining block of 29 flats granted to Francesco Grima, another Gozitan developer.
Permit for Grima’s block was delivered in October, but last May The Malta Independent reported that the flats had already been on sale off-plan.
The NGO Din L-Art Helwa and a group of residents have now appealed against Grima’s block of flats, which has a wide frontage and rises to five floors. The appellants have challenged the permit chiefly over the building’s impact on the urban conservation area, and the view from the windmill, as well as the generation of traffic.
These impacts are set to cumulatively worsen by the three blocks clustered densely in the neighbourhood that’s until now been characterized by two or three storey buildings.