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MaltaToday 4 January 2023 MIDWEEK

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8 NEWS maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 4 JANUARY 2023 JAMES DEBONO THE relocation of St Albert school from Valletta to a stretch of agri- cultural land in Ghaxaq will entail the loss of protected rubble walls and the demolition of a farmhouse considered to merit a Grade 2 lev- el of protection. Field rooms, huts, wells, rubble ramps, quarrying features, stone heaps (brag), and country tracks meriting a Grade 3 level of pro- tection will also be lost. This emerges from an Environ- ment Impact Assessment docu- menting the impact of building the new school in this rural area, which lies outside the develop- ment zone. The study lists 21 features of cultural heritage im- portance located within or on the boundary of the proposed devel- opment. Following discussions with the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage the school was rede- signed with the aim of retaining and conserving five of these fea- tures including two country tracks together with their rubble walls, field rooms, and a Mutagħla (rubble ramps connecting fields), which are considered to merit a Grade 2 level of protection. While noting that certain fea- tures, including rubble walls, will be retained and restored as part of the development, the EIA con- cludes that "the scale of the loss of the recorded heritage features within the site is considerable". The loss of heritage will include the majority of rubble walls with- in the site of the proposed devel- opment, including a significant number of Grade A and Grade B walls. Moreover, in the case of the features that will be retained, the change to their landscape setting will be significant. The EIA concludes that overall, the new development will have "a negative impact of major signif- icance on the recorded cultural heritage features" as well as a negative impact of major signifi- cance "on the setting of the cul- ture heritage features that are to be retained". Other negative impacts of the project identified in the EIA in- clude the loss of 28,150sq.m of agricultural land, the loss of 46 protected trees, and a nega- tive impact on views in Ghaxaq, which undermine the rural char- acter and sense of openness of the Dawret Hal Ghaxaq area. The land was designated for the development of a school in local plans approved in 2006 after be- ing identified for this purpose by the Planning Authority in a site selection exercise. But the project came back to haunt the church hierarchy during the Zonqor controversy. Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat rebutted criticism by Archbishop Charles Scicluna on the proposed development of the American University of Malta on a 90,000sq.m site at Zonqor Point, by referring to the Ghaxaq school plans. The Dominicans want the Ghaxaq college to be a spacious alternative to Valletta's St Albert College, which is over 70 years old and lacks sufficient space for lecture rooms, laboratories and facilities for sports and extra-cur- ricular activities. The area would also be more accessible to fami- lies in the southern half of the island. Plans for the redevelopment of a 36,000sq.m school campus for St Albert College in Ghaxaq have been revised to protect two scenic country lanes but the development will still result in a considerable loss of cultural heritage features, EIA warns New Ghaxaq school to have major negative impact on cultural heritage Above left: A country path which will be retained Above right and left: Rubble heaps which will be lost as a result of development

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