The Malta Independent 16 January 2018, Tuesday

PA to decide on whether to sanction illegally developed Siggiewi zoo

Kevin Schembri Orland Wednesday, 4 October 2017, 08:38 Last update: about 4 months ago

 

The Planning Authority board on Thursday will decide whether to sanction the illegally developed 'L-Arka ta' Noe' Zoo in Siggiewi, which is characterised by a number of structures including a farmhouse, cages, ponds and stables.

According to the Case Officer's report, the existing site has an area of circa 10,565 sq metres. The existing commitments also include paths aimed to provide access throughout the site and landscaping. "The existing development has the potential to attract a number of visitors to this site."

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The site is located within a rural area, outside the development zone, within the limits of Siggiewi, namely along Triq il-Muza, adjacent to the area known as Ta' Bur ix-Xewk. The area is characterized by a mix of soft stone quarries, some restored back to agricultural land and cultivated whilst others are either abandoned or disused quarries. The site lies within the groundwater safeguard zone, and is situated adjacent to a proposed area of high landscape value.

A number of objections to the sanctioning were received including by Din L-Art Helwa and Front Harsien ODZ.

The Environment and Resources Authority said it considers that similar proposals and their subsequent urban commitment are not justified and hence not acceptable from an environmental point of view. "The construction of zoos and the concomitant change of use will further contribute to the overdevelopment of the site with adverse, cumulative environmental impacts including further encroachment, proliferation and scattering of new buildings and structures which could have easily been located within designated urban areas. On the contrary, the safeguarding of rural areas' distinctiveness should be sought by controlling the cumulative effect of development. Approval of this application may also create a precedent for further urban built-up structures within this particular area which cumulatively would result in further uptake of agricultural land for unjustified uses and consequential impacts on landscape."

"This and similar proposals replace the legitimate use of undeveloped land for rural purposes and consequently also risks displacing future proposals for new, genuine rural development onto undeveloped rural land elsewhere. In view of the above, the proposal is objectionable in principle from an environmental point of view."

The Environment Protection Directorate (EPD) said that the "proposed" development cannot be favourably recommended. "Over the years various interventions have been carried out on site. Piecemeal illegal works resulted in the significant site modification. The overall development/interventions (including the relatively large "farmhouse" and other scattered structures, hard surfacing, formal landscaping etc) commit the whole site which is over 10,000 sq metres in size, and introduce unnecessary and excessive formalization. This has resulted in the unnecessary loss of agricultural land, adverse impacts on the rural character, formalization of rural land and loss of traditional landscape features (pre-existing rubble walls etc)."

"The malpractice of first developing a site irrespective of its characteristics and context should not be rewarded through the retroactive sanctioning of a fait-accompli," the EPD said.

The Case Officer explained that the rear part of the site in question is a disused quarry, which may be considered for rehabilitation. "The site is also located within an area which is subject to an Environment Management Plan aimed to serve as a management and implantation tool for future rural rehabilitation. The proposal is also committing the rest of the site which is zoned as agricultural land awaiting classification of agricultural value as per South Malta Local Plan."

"The proposed animal enclosure is being assessed against Policy which lists a number of criteria aimed to render animal enclosures to be of a high quality rural design and thus respect the rural context. The Policy also requires that any related amenities and supporting facilities shall be preferably constructed in lightweight reversible materials thus this policy seeks not to compromise the rural landscape."

The Case Officer concluded that from a planning point of view, the sanctioning of the animal enclosure is acceptable and is hereby being recommended for approval, "subject to a fine and to the submission of revised plans indicating the demolition of the farmhouse and the rendering of any related amenities and supporting facilities in lightweight reversible materials and of a scale to accommodate the minimum space required."

The recommendation is that permission be subject to a planning gain to the value of €50,000 to be used to fund environmental improvement projects in the locality of the site. 

 


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