MaltaToday | 17 August 2008

NEWS | Sunday, 17 August 2008

This tree must die

The Malta Environment and Planning Authority persists in seeking the destruction of a centenarian Norfolk Pine tree, also known as an Awrikarja, to pave the way for a four-storey development in Manoel Dimech Street in Sliema, instead of the existing two-storey building.
In a previous application the existence of the tree had not even been noticed by the case officer in his report. It was only after a report in MaltaToday that the report was amended to take note of the tree. The first application was eventually turned down.
The current proposal for an eight-apartment block involves the complete demolition of the existing building, except for the facade at the first floor.
MEPA’s National Heritage Panel had called on MEPA to make “every effort” to conserve the tree. Trees which are over 50 years of age are legally protected.
But since the proposed development and the tree “cannot reasonably co-exist,” MEPA’s Natural Heritage Advisory Committee concluded “that there is no overriding case for preservation, notwithstanding the concerns raised” and that “there would be no objection for the uprooting of the trees in question.”
This tree is one of the only three remaining old Norfolk Pine trees found in Sliema. The second tree is found in St James’s Street, while a third tree is found in Villa Drago, in Tower Road.
Two more recent additions are found outside a café at the bottom of Bisazza Street and another one at Independence Gardens.
The developer will now be expected to replace the uprooted trees with twenty Maltese indigenous trees in a site approved by MEPA’s Environment Protection Directorate.
But it will take ages for any of these trees to grow and surpass the elegance of the lone Awrikarja in Sliema.

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