The Malta Independent 28 June 2022, Tuesday

PL councillor now seeks full development permission for elderly home on ODZ land

Kevin Schembri Orland Sunday, 15 May 2022, 08:30 Last update: about 2 months ago

A Labour Party local councillor is seeking to get full development permission for a planning application he filed to construct a home for the elderly on ODZ land in Naxxar.

A spokesperson for the Planning Authority confirmed that the applicant recently switched the application – which was originally filed in 2017 – from an outline development to a full development application.

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An outline development application seeks to establish whether the scale and nature of a proposed development is acceptable in principle to the Authority, but would not grant permission for the project to actually be built. A full development application allows the latter.

The site for the current application was previously known as Summiena Farm and is located on Sqaq l-Imnieqa, Naxxar. It is located less than 100m away from the Gharghur Semaphore tower.

The site is also located just a road away from another home for the elderly that had been built on ODZ land and was quite controversial at the time.

The application, filed by PL Naxxar local councillor Mario Brincat, is to “demolish existing broiler houses (1668-1978 structures), excavate site and construct basement level of parking and an overlying old people’s home (Class 2A) at Levels -1, 0, 1, 2, including all ancillary facilities, proposed landscaping and construction of an indoor pool”.

Contacted by this newsroom, Brincat confirmed that he plans to go through with the application. Told that it is on ODZ land and that the PL has been pushing for the protection of the environment, he was asked whether this application goes against this kind of thought process. “In my opinion no, because it is committed land already,” he said.

Asked whether a discussion about the application was ever held within the council and if yes, whether he abstained from taking part, he said: “Whenever this matter came up for discussion at the local council, I have always declared conflict of interest and I never participated or was part of any discussions held.”

The Environment and Resources Authority in 2020 had said the following about the proposal: “ERA objects to such proposals for the change of use of rural buildings and rural land into non-farming uses as these encourage urban sprawl outside designated development zones at the expense of the countryside. The removal of an existing farm building on an ODZ site should not serve as a pretext for a replacement development of urban or industrial nature.”

In checking whether an Environment Impact Assessment was required at the time, the ERA  determined that the nature of the proposal is such that it does not merit further assessment through EIA studies “since the relatively basic issues and in principle environmental conflicts identified in the screening (namely rural land uptake, intensification and proliferation of physical development and site formalization at the expense of the countryside) cannot be adequately addressed through detailed EIA studies”.

Documents submitted by the ERA on the application read that the building will occupy a site area of approximately 2,700sq.m. and will have a gross floor area of approximately 3,500sq.m. It had noted that the development would include 47 rooms with a total of 95 beds across the three levels.

“The site is located outside the development boundaries of Naxxar and is partly committed on its south-eastern side by a disused building made up of two separate blocks and a smaller building at its rear. Rectangular building foundations/ruins along the north-western periphery of the site are also visible on the aerial photo. According to the Project Description Statement, the complex was previously used as a broiler farm, however no evidence was provided to corroborate such claim. The site is located circa 110m from the nearest residential zone of Naxxar and 240m from the nearest development zone of Gharghur as measured from its closest point. A farmhouse situated at Sqaq l-Imnieqa corner with Triq San Gwann and a small row of residential buildings on the opposite side of the street are the only buildings in the vicinity of the site on Sqaq l-Imnieqa from which the site is accessed. It forms part of Naxxar’s Strategic Open Gap as designated through the Central Malta Local Plan and is governed by Policy CG25, which prohibits urban type development except for small scale utility infrastructure subject to a number of criteria. The site is also identified as an area of agricultural value within the same Local Plan. In fact the site is surrounded by open agricultural land mainly to its eastern side,” an ERA document read.

The Design Advisory Committee of the PA has considered the drawings and photomontages and is of the opinion “that the proposal will have a visual impact on the landscape which needs to be mitigated. More vegetation (trees) and better articulation of the facades may provide more interest in the massing”.

The Gharghur local council had objected to the application in a letter sent to the PA in 2018, “on the grounds that this is an ODZ area”.

Photomontage of proposed development


Transport Malta also raised certain concerns. “The proposed development presents a number of shortcomings mainly in terms of road safety directly related to the accessibility to and from the site, both from a driver and a pedestrian point of view. Hence, Transport Malta is not in a position to issue its clearance,” it said in submissions to the application in 2020.

A number of NGOs had also objected to the proposal.

 

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