The Environment and Planning Commission (EPC) within MEPA yesterday approved planning permission PA0097/12 to amend (PA4521/09) for the excavation of an additional basement level, subject to a number of stringent conditions. PA4521/09 which had been granted in 2010 included planning permission for the development of basement garages, 6 apartments, 2 penthouses on a plot of land in Triq Sant Anna, Mgarr.
The Commission requested, further to consultation with the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage (SCH) who did not object to this development application, that all works are to be strictly monitored by an archaeologist approved by the Superintendence and in line the SCH's terms of reference. Furthermore, prior to commencement of works, the applicant should carry out studies to cover excavation and a construction management plan prior to the issue of permit.
MEPA clarified that while PA4521/09 was approved in 2010, no one, at the time had any information regarding any archaeological remains within this site. No archaeological investigations had ever been carried out. As a result, the permit was granted without monitoring conditions. During the excavation on site, archaeological remains were accidentally discovered. SCH and MEPA were alerted by third parties of these potential findings. Following the completion of investigations by SCH, SCH permitted excavation works on site to carry on without any additional safeguards deemed necessary.
Yesterday following a period of discussion MEPA received an official recommendation from SCH to schedule the area adjacent to where yesterday the Authority gave its planning consent. Back in 2006, on this particular site, the Authority had granted planning permission for construction of a similar development (PA98/06). However, following the commencement of works in 2006, SCH were alerted by third parties of archaeological discoveries within the site.
SCH carried out the necessary investigations which were completed in 2007, following which SCH consented to development subject to certain measures, mainly the incorporation of archaeological remains in basement level of approved development. At a later stage, the applicant opted not to develop the site and has requested MEPA for the cancellation of permit. The permit had been cancelled in February 2011.
Finally, it is important to clarify that, MEPA does not have the power to stop any construction works unless there will be a breach of the permitted conditions. As regards to archaeological discoveries, the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage is responsible to ensure the protection and accessibility of Malta’s cultural heritage as defined in the Cultural Heritage Act 2002.