NEWS | Sunday, 04 November 2007

Heritage watchdog gives thumbs down to Chambray hotel

James Debono

MEPA’s own internal heritage watchdog is objecting to the development of a five-storey hotel and a seven-storey building on the already over built Chambray site.

The Heritage Advisory Committee describes the height proposed for the new hotel as excessive. “The committee disagrees with the construction of the hotel because it is massive and would have a very negative visual impact on the rest of the fort as viewed from the sea,” HAC notes. The building of penthouses on the existing building is another bone of contention, as is the proposed demolition of the British barracks which date back to the early 20th century.

But contacted by MaltaToday, developer Dr Michael Caruana insisted that his primary concern is that of protecting heritage.

“If there is anyone who wants to take care of heritage , it’s me,” Caruana said, adding that the heritage value of the barracks still has to be ascertained, as it consists mostly of soldiers’ living quarters.

“I do not want to pass any judgement on this as this issue has to be determined by experts. What is certain is that we want to integrate any historical feature of value into the development itself.”

Caruana also told MaltaToday that the idea of having two units on the seventh floor is to give Chambray a focal point which fits with the view of other church spires.

“At present the Chambray development is very flat. The new building, which is definitely not a tower, will give it a focal point,” Caruana said.

The developer insists that his main interest is to find a balance between development and heritage.

“When one considers that Gozitan hotels are closing down, having a new hotel in Gozo is in everybody’s interest,” Caruana said.

The Heritage Advisory Committee was set up to provide professional and expert advice to the Authority on matters relating to the conservation of cultural and natural heritage.

Alternattiva Demokratika - The Green Party is also objecting to the proposed development. AD’s spokesperson for Gozo Victor Galea recalled that originally, Fort Chambray was to be small-scale residential units, but this was allowed to be developed in to a “private estate”.

“Expert studies commissioned by MEPA itself state that the building density on the site is exaggerated, to the extent that Fort Chambray is being turned into a private estate,” Galea said.

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