A planning application for a block of apartments in an Outside Development Zone against the cliffs of Zebbuġ, Gozo, has raised the ire of environmental NGOs, the local council and residents, who say that the development will ruin a virgin area of natural beauty that at present is comprised of picturesque agricultural fields.
The application – to develop six apartments over three storeys, a pool and an additional floor for parking – is objected to unanimously by Zebbuġ Local Council. Environmental NGOs Din l-Art Helwa and Flimkien ghal Ambient Ahjar have also filed their objections to the proposed development.
Although part of the development lies within the Urban Conservation Area, the vast majority of the site lies in a hands-off ODZ area.
The application has drawn considerable objections from nearby residents, who fear that not only will Zebbuġ’s distinctive and unique cliffs and ridge be ruined forever, but they will be replaced by a glaring eyesore. The proposed apartments, they point out, are not terraced and as such will simply constitute a chunk of a building on what is today a highly scenic view. The picturesque ridge and cliffs in question can be seen from several areas of Gozo including Ta Pinu, Għasri, Għarb and San Lawrenz.
They also fear that the development, which is in the middle of nowhere and only accessed by a narrow footpath on the cliff edge, will also lead to the additional construction of an access road.
The site is full of indigenous flora and fauna, including protected trees, very old rubble walls and a unique marble that was used to build Zebbuġ church.
In their representations to the Planning Authority, residents point out that there are few areas that have so far remained untouched, and that there could be no way of compensating for the destruction of the area in question.
They also point out that there is no application notification fixed on site at present, as required by law. One resident says that the notice had been attached to the site on 25 February and that after less than an hour it was removed, “most probably to keep the residents unaware of the application and to avoid possible objections”.
Another resident pointed out that policy dictates that any development, when located near a cliff, must be at least 15 feet from the edge and that the development being proposed lies just seven feet away.
The proposed developer is Jimmy Stellini and the project’s architect is Edwin Mintoff.
In its objection, Din l-art Ħelwa notes that the proposal is a ridge development and lies on the edge of the scheme, that the proposed development “would result in a loss of interesting geographic formations” and that the “proposed design offers no solution to mitigate the impact of the four-storey development.”
The NGO also notes that there is no indication as to how the proposed development can be accessed as it is not located on a public road and that “this case seems to highlight that the edge of scheme was erroneously indicated and should be shifted so as not to allow for such ridge developments to occur”.