The Malta Independent 20 September 2019, Friday

PA Board to decide central link project on Thursday

Kevin Schembri Orland Tuesday, 16 July 2019, 08:21 Last update: about 3 months ago

The Central Link project is set to be decided by the Planning Authority board this Thursday, despite a number of objections by Attard residents.

This application involves the restructuring of junctions, the inclusion of bypass lanes between Mrieħel and Rabat and the construction of a new bypass road to re-route traffic from Attard to Żebbuġ. This bypass is proposed to be constructed adjacent to Triq Oliver Agius, Triq Ferdinandu Inglott and Triq Tumas Chetcuti, and consists of two unidirectional lanes allowing traffic flow in a westward direction. The proposal also includes the widening of roads.

Among the objections, some argued that the proposal is located on arable agricultural land and shall lead to the demolition of an old farmhouse. ‘A large part of the proposed road is being set on virgin and arable agricultural land which consists of deep soil, freshwater springs, a number of large reservoirs, fruit trees, orchards and greenhouses. This runs counter to Rural Objective 1 of SPED, in particular its paragraph 1 which emphasises the need to protect “good quality agricultural land from development’,” the case officer’s report reads. Other objections also highlight that widening the road network does not alleviate the traffic problem that Malta is facing, that the construction of a new bypass shall isolate and marginalise a large portion of Attard residents, that a large section of Attard will be exposed to increased pollution levels and will thus negatively impact human health, that the proposal lacks a bicycle network, and that the proposal to construct a schemed road is not correct as the approved scheme does not envisage a bypass but a local road, among other things.

The case officer’s report also highlights that a statement was received in the form of a petition in support of the Central Link Project promoted by the Malta Automobile Club signed by 1,214 people.

The case officer notes that the proposed development aims to alleviate traffic flow and reduce vehicular emissions in the centres of Attard, Balzan and Birkirkara, reduce commuter travel time, improve junction capacity, encourage use of arterial roads (instead of bypassing traffic through the centre of Attard) when travelling to Żebbuġ and Siġġiewi and upgrade pedestrian routes whilst providing links to public transport facilities.

“An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the proposal was carried out, which noted that the project requires 48,466 square metres of agricultural land, and will lead to the generation of inert waste, as well as construction noise and vibration impacts and traffic noise impacts on along the new Attard Bypass during operation. However the EIA reports that a Cost Benefit Analysis carried out in June 2018 states that a lack of any intervention in the area will reach a state of gridlock by 2028. In this regard the proposed development is required for the continued operation and management of road infrastructure within the road stretch in question.”

The Environment and Resources Authority stated that the proposal is intended to alleviate traffic and congestion and is consequently expected to improve air quality. “However, it was noted that the residual adverse impacts identified in the EIA assessment remain of significant concern. ERA is also of the opinion that the traffic abatement issue should also be addressed at a strategic level through sustainable measures that effectively reduce dependence on car transport,” the report reads. The ERA proceeded to propose a number of conditions on the development.

The Attard Local Council stated that there is a big traffic problem in Attard, but the proposal in question runs counter to SPED policies and the Transport Malta Master Plan 2025. “The Attard Local Council also objected to the proposal on the grounds that Attard would be bound by two main roads, a lot of agricultural land shall be lost, and the proposal will result in more pollution.” The Local Council suggested a modal shift in transport to truly reduce traffic congestion.

Originally, six scenarios were considered for this proposal together with a version suggested by the general public. These ranged from considering no interventions at all to various infrastructural solutions or a combination of multiple infrastructural solutions, namely upgrading of existing junctions as well as construction of new roads, flyover bypass, multilevel junctions and underground tunnel. One of these was then selected.

The case officer has recommended that the project be approved.

 

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