The Malta Independent 28 June 2022, Tuesday

Public outcry on Wied Żnuber persists as residents call for withdrawal of miniature airstrip plans

Sunday, 15 May 2022, 13:36 Last update: about 2 months ago

The public outcry against plans for a miniature airstrip on the outskirts of the picturesque Wied Żnuber has continued to persist, with Birżebbuġa residents and a number of NGOs calling for the withdrawal of the plans and the classification of the whole of the valley as an Outside Development Zone.

On Sunday morning, a group of Birżebbuġa residents, associations and interested persons walked from the church of Bengħajsa to the ​​Wied Żnuber area currently earmarked for a miniature airstrip.

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Activists insisted that plans are to be withdrawn immediately and that the area around the valley should be designated ODZ as promised by Prime Minister Robert Abela last March. The mayor of Birżebbuġa, Scott Camilleri, also joined the event and called for the protection of Wied Żnuber.

The informative walk saw natural historians and history experts address the value of this place which consists of precious historic remains such as the prehistoric dolmen and the military shelter as well as the protected fauna and flora of an increasingly endangered habitat - garigue and rock habits where rainwater ponds form. The site is also adjacent to a Natura 2000 site where shearwaters nest and serves as a buffer zone between this protected site and surrounding factories.

“A miniature airstrip will take up a large area of ​​land and pollute the entire area around the valley and the cliffs with loud noise and light. It is clear that such a project has no place in the zone and not only because of the land itwill destroy but also because of its invasive impact on the whole area,” four NGOs said in a joint statement.

Għaqda Storja u Kultura Birżebbuġa, Moviment Graffitti, BirdLife Malta, and Din l-Art Ħelwa have been at the forefront of opposing plans for a miniature airstrip to be built on the outskirts of the picturesque Wied Znuber in Birzebbuga.

The agreement between three government agencies and the Ħal Far Model Flying Association was signed last February in a process which the NGOs described as having taken place “behind everyone's back and without any consultation.”

Details of this agreement were unveiled last month and clearly show that the government has committed to allocate a natural and agricultural site of 44,440 square meters - the size of six and a half football pitches - for building the airfield and surrounding facilities.

“Aside from the destruction of natural and agricultural land, the miniature airstrip will impact residents severely as they will lose the present peace of Wied Żnuber for the entertainment of the few,” the groups said.

“This is a form of injustice that becomes even more evident when we consider that Wied Żnuber is one of the few remaining natural sites in Birżebbuġa and its surroundings; a place that is already burdened with over development that has negatively impacted quality of life,” they added.

On March 17, during an activity in Birżebbuġa, Prime Minister Roberta Abela stated that no development will take place in Wied Żnuber, and that the area around the bottom of the valley will be turned into an ODZ. The miniature airstrip is planned for the only part of Wied Żnuber that is not yet ODZ despite its natural value.

Residents and associations therefore called on the Prime Minister to honour his word and ensure that no development takes place in Wied Żnuber and that the part around the bottom of the valley becomes ODZ.

This necessarily means that plans for a miniature airstrip are withdrawn, they noted.

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