The Malta Independent 26 June 2022, Sunday

Naxxar council objects to PL councillor’s home for the elderly application on ODZ land

Kevin Schembri Orland Thursday, 26 May 2022, 10:10 Last update: about 1 month ago
Photomontage of proposed development
Photomontage of proposed development

The Naxxar local council has objected to a Planning application for a home for the elderly on ODZ land that was filed by a PL local councillor from the same locality.

The site of the 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. It 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.

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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”. 

The Naxxar council is objecting to the proposal for reasons relating to social and environmental considerations, it said. Speaking with this newsroom earlier this month, Brincat had said that 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.”

It said that the development is contrary to the specific policy objectives for the site and, more generally, for the provision of residential accommodation for the elderly as outlined in the Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development, known as SPED, and the Central Malta local plan.

The council quoted from the Environment and Resources Authority’s objections on the application, which read: “ERA considers the proposal as objectionable from an environmental point of view in view that the proposal contributes to commitment of further urban development beyond the development zone boundary. In the ERA’s opinion, there is no necessity for such a development to be accommodated in a rural area.” The council said that the need for an Environmental Impact Assessment screening exercise should be completed before a decision is taken on the application, in order to ensure that the full extent of the environmental impacts of the proposal can be identified.

The council also highlighted that Transport Malta is not happy with the proposal in the application, and said that the issues TM raised point to the need for extensive remedial works to the rural Sqaq l-Imnieqa in order to achieve adequate and safe access. The council said that the environmental impacts of the development will extend beyond the site boundary. It also said that the question also arises about the suitability of the site for an old people’s home, “if there is the need for such extensive modifications to the road network to accommodate the development.”

As for social inclusion, the council said that the need to address social inclusion in the selection of sites for new elderly accommodation is critical in ensuring the health and welfare of the elderly. “The applicant should be required to take account of this in conducting the aforementioned site selection exercise. For example, the site selection exercise should consider criteria related to accessibility by public transport and proximity to amenities, allowing residents to walk to/from facilities such as the Church, shops etc. In this respect, the council would query the suitability of the proposed site which is relatively distanced from the centre of Naxxar and Gharghur.”

The council also said that the Local Plan is relevant where the site for the proposed development lies within the designated Strategic Open Space Gap between the settlements of Naxxar and Gharghur. “This open space gap is designed to prevent the coalescence of these settlements.” It highlighted that policy prohibits any urban development in designated Strategic Open Gaps, except for essential small-scale utility infrastructure. “In the context of the Local Plan, therefore, the proposed development is clearly contrary to the policy objectives for the site.”

While objecting to the development, the council also said that, “nevertheless, there is the need for the PA to ensure that the application is subject to all the relevant regulations and assessment procedures, which includes screening for EIA, undertaking all necessary traffic impact and traffic safety studies and, importantly, conducting a site selection exercise to demonstrate that a suitable site cannot be found for the development within the development zone, having regard to the sequential approach to development advocated by the National Spatial Framework in the SPED.”

The ERA had screened the application for an EIA, and said: “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.” It proceeded to object to the proposal.

 

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