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MALTATODAY 22 January 2023

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13 NEWS maltatoday | SUNDAY • 22 JANUARY 2023 JAMES DEBONO RESTORATION works for Msida's Għajn tal-Ħasselin will be complemented by an attempt to identify the source of water that is constantly accumulating on the shallow rock-hewn basin, presently overgrown with vege- tation and debris that is litter- ing the waters despite the local council's regulator cleansing efforts. According to a restoration statement by the Public Works Department, the identification of the source of water should address the issue prior to emp- tying the basin and cleaning the bottom. The aim of the restoration is to address the various issues con- tributing to the deterioration of the fabric of the landmark struc- ture, to structurally consoli- date it and maintain a working rain-water management system. The council had been com- plaining about this problem since at least 2012 when Clift- on Grima, then serving as the locality's mayor, referred to the problem of overflowing waste- water resulting in an infestation of mosquitoes and other para- sites in the historical landmark. The Għajn tal-Ħasselin orig- inated from the fawwara, or spring, which was located in the inner reaches of the Msida creek, and is mentioned in Gi- an Frangisk Abela's 1647 Mal- ta Illustrata. The structure was probably originally hewn for the treatment of cotton and hemp, with the rock-cut basin being fed by the natural spring. This evolved into a community wash house in later years. The arched construction cov- ering the spring basin is attrib- uted to the patronage of Fra Wolfgang Philip Guttenberg (1647-1733) and was construct- ed during the first half of the eighteenth century. Elderly resi- dents of the area recall using the basin for swimming during their childhood in the cool sheltered on hot summer days. Various alterations were made throughout the structure's his- tory as the land around it was developed into a busy thorough- fare. The natural canal which linked the basin to the sea was filled up after World War II with war debris up to the foot of Rue D'Argens. Troughs used for the washing of laundry are no longer visible, and part of the structure was buried under the surrounding pavement and higher street levels. The structure has been sub- jected to ad hoc repairs in which stonework of mismatched pro- portions were inserted instead of weathered stone. The resto- ration foresees the cleaning of the existing structure with the aim of eliminating as much as possible any surface encrusta- tions which are causing deteri- oration to the underlying stone fabric. JAMES DEBONO THE Planning Authority has absolved itself of any responsi- bility on the survival of two ma- ture Ficus trees threatened by Joseph Portelli's 88-unit com- plex instead of the abandoned Dolphin Centre in Balzan. In an appeal filed by architect Joanne Spiteri Staines on be- half of NGOs Din l-Art Ħelwa, Flimkien Għall-Ambjent Aħ- jar, the local council and resi- dents, it was said the existence of the trees was not even con- sidered in plans for the project. The two large and robust trees stretch from the façade of the Dolphin Centre, across the entire width of Triq il-Kbira and have a diameter of 18m. The appellants now say the basement of the project will be excavated right up and beyond the pavement line, and this will result in "the destruction of half of the tree's roots" as well as its most of its branches and 154sq.m of foliage. The objec- tors fear that the development will ultimately result in the fell- ing of the trees. But the PA replied that the two trees "are not part of the site covered by the develop- ment and are in fact located on a public pavement." Instead, the PA has called on the objec- tors to "raise their concern on the trees with the competent authority" while calling on the EPRT to dismiss this argument. But although the national authority responsible for tree protection is the Environment and Resources Authority and not the PA, it is the permit is- sued by the PA which is endan- gering the two iconic trees by approving development above and below the said trees. The appellants are also chal- lenging the permit because plans for the project failed to refer to the existence of a historical wall and nymphae- um, which formed part of the grounds of the original Villa Birbal – illegally demolished in 1987. Also omitted from plans is the presence of a large well, also part of the gardens of the former Villa Birbal. But the PA also shot down this argument, saying its deci- sion was taken on the basis of documents it had in hand and that the nymphaeum was not even noted by the Superin- tendence for Cultural Heritage. The Balzan council and NGOs insist that planning policies restrict heights in the area to four levels, but the PA says this translates to a metric height of 16.3 metres and that adequate measures were taken to step down the development from the Urban Conservation Area. To restore Ghajn tal- Hasselin, council seeks out historic water source 'Trees not our responsibility', PA says in Balzan appeal PA says NGO concerns on survival of mature trees in Portelli Balzan project not its responsibility

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