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MEPA approves redevelopment of Gozo Heritage into residential units

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MEPA approves redevelopment of Gozo Heritage into residential unitsThe MEPA Board has approved the redevelopment of Gozo Heritage and adjacent property, situated on Triq-Mgarr and, Triq il-Qighan, Ghajnsielem, into residential units.

Gozo Heritage closed its doors for the last time at the end of May 2009, when former Gozo Heritage Director Brian Mizzi, who conceived the idea of the museum, said at the time that it had been losing money for the previous four years and they “stuck it out” for as long as they could, but were just not getting enough business.

He also acknowledged that Gozo Heritage could not compete with the rates offered by Heritage Malta to tour operators but said he accepted that the national heritage organisation needed to be competitive.

Mr Mizzi had pointed out that the number of day-trippers visiting Gozo with tour operators had gradually decreased, and companies organising the tours were reluctant to include paying attractions to optimise their own profits.

A former senior employee, who declined to give his name, at the time said he was “very hurt” by the closure, which led to the loss of 10 jobs. According to him, the museum never recovered from losing significant business due to the reconstruction of the Mgarr-Ghajnsielem road in 2006 and 2007.

“The roadworks caused tour operators to stop visiting the museum, and they did not return when the roadworks were completed. No compensation was offered by the Government for the loss of the business which was caused by the road closure.”

Gozo Heritage officially opened in 1988 and was housed in a large house on the Mgarr road in Ghajnsielem. It consisted of a journey through a sequence of areas, each of which presented an aspect of Gozitan history from the past 7,000 years using faithfully reproduced reconstructions with atmospheric lighting and sound effects.

On the 23rd of December 2008 an outline development application was filed with MEPA by Mr Mizzi, for the redevelopment of Gozo Heritage and adjacent property into residential units. This was subsequently refused by MEPA due to the type of development around the old farmhouse and construction in the internal courtyard.

A revised application for the project was submitted and approval has now been given, with the MEPA Cultural Panel saying “considering the limited areas of demolition and the retention of all the vernacular features, it finds no objection from a cultural heritage point of view, provided that the proposed works are strictly monitored.”

Photograph: Internal courtyard at Gozo Heritage

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