The Malta Independent 13 August 2022, Saturday

Residents' quality of life bulldozed at Planning Authority - FAA

Saturday, 25 June 2022, 10:50 Last update: about 3 months ago

Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar (FAA) said Saturday is supporting Balzan residents in campaigning to preserve Balzan residents’ health, quality of life and village character, all under threat by the proposed development to build a complex of shops, 90 apartments and garages on the Dolphin Centre site.

In a marathon Planning Authority hearing, it was shown that the engineers’ report was far from comprehensive, failing to provide for the long-standing issue of stormwater flooding in the area, the NGO said in a statement. Similarly, there was no mention of screening of services at roof level, no indication of the provision of air conditioning requirements for commercial premises, nor studies on the noise this would generate.

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FAA said it welcomes the fact that the Commission was taking on board the objectors’ points about the proper provision of transition heights, particularly setbacks abutting on the villa zone, and issues of privacy since the proposed block will include windows looking directly into surrounding private gardens and back windows.

The Commission also noted that the development exceeded the maximum legal limit of 30m depth of development from the street.

The Commission also agreed with residents about the lack of loading and unloading facilities for the over 2,000sq m commercial area which will lead trucks to unload on the street, further disrupting traffic on roads that are often gridlocked due to the nearby school. FAA maintains that the Traffic Study is fundamentally flawed since traffic counts were taken during the mid-August shutdown when traffic is at its lowest rate.

Above all, FAA and the residents protested the fact that ERA has concluded that this major project in the heart of an ancient village does not require an Environment Impact Assessment. A doctor present deplored the lack of medical studies to show how the increase in traffic in traffic and building congestion would affect residents’ health, saying that this should be the overriding priority of the PA’s assessment of any project.

In the midst of all this, just as the Planning Authority Commission Chairperson started indicating the futher studies needed, the developer interjected, suddenly calling a stop to proceedings. Since this block is known to be a Joseph Portelli project, this highly irregular, arbitrary suspension before the decision is taken has far-reaching implications for the outcome of the case.

FAA also deplores the fact that when discussing the possible monitoring for abuse by the Building and Construction Authority, Joseph Portelli’s architect, Perit Marisa Schembri Grima, never declared that she is the Chairman of this Authority, a major conflict of interest. As pointed out by FAA’s Astrid Vella, it is highly unlikely that the BCA would penalise its own Chairman’s project.

In spite of the PA Board’s balanced approach to this project, the hearing showed that the planning process remains a circus plagued by irregularities, conflict of interest and powerful players overriding residents’ quality of life, which should be the PA’s first priority.

 

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