The applications for the restoration of timber balconies are leaving MEPA and the Local Councils by the dozen. The applications opened last Monday and both MEPA offices and the Local Councils are reporting a strong response, running into dozens each day.
The announcement made by the Minister for Rural Affairs and the Environment Perit George Pullicino, that the Timber Balcony Scheme was to be extended to all Urban Conservations Areas in Malta and Gozo and to all scheduled houses has led to an unprecedented demand for applications.
"This just goes to show how popular this scheme is. It also indicates very clearly that we Maltese appreciate our architecture and the particular features which are characteristic to it. The expense involved in maintaining old houses might be prohibitive and schemes of this sort, by MEPA or by any similar organisation, might go a long way to help in the regeneration of our urban cores" said Mr. Andrew Calleja, Chairman of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority. He emphasised that due to the scope of this exercise, no fixed budget has been set until the evaluation of all applications finalised.
Instituted in the early 1990's when the Authority was first set up, this scheme gives applicants up to 60% (up to a maximum of (€1397.62) Lm600) of the money spent on restoring their timber balconies or replacing their existing one. A specially selected committee will assess all applications and will issue a letter of intent to those whose request would have been approved.
MEPA is encouraging applicants for this scheme to take on other restorations once they apply. One such restoration involves placing an air-conditioning unit within the tiber balcony and removing it from the façade of the house. All this would involve would be the louvering of one side panel of the balcony, and an eyesore would be removed for good. MEPA is also advising applicant not to use grit-blasting to restore facades, not to fix ceramic tiles and to be prudent and tasteful in choosing colours for facades.