The Malta Independent 25 June 2024, Tuesday
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Appeal on Joseph Portelli’s Balzan mega-development to be heard Thursday

Wednesday, 22 March 2023, 11:49 Last update: about 2 years ago

An appeal for the mega-development headed by Gozitan developer Joseph Portelli will be heard by the Environment and Planning Tribunal on Thursday.

The Planning Authority (PA) approved an application made by one of Portelli’s companies, CF Developers, last September which would replace the abandoned Dolphin Centre in Balzan.

The approved application includes 88 residential unit blocks, a retail outlet, a gym, 70 car spaces and 68 basement garages. The site can be found on Triq Guzeppi Frendo, corner with Wied Hal Balzan and Triq il-Kbira.

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This project has been under a lot of scrutiny from eNGOs, Balzan residents and even the local council from when the application was initially filed.

Company J Portelli Projects began advertising this development in March 2021, saying that residents will be allowed to move in by winter 2023.

Following the approval of this site, Balzan residents, the local council, Din L-Art Helwa and FAA filed an appeal against the permit granted to the Environment and Planning Tribunal, on 18 October 2022.

The appeal lists 17 objections to the development it goes into depth on each point.

In the conclusions of this appeal, it said that “The entire scrutiny of the application is based upon a site which could have been anywhere within a development zone but not immediately outside a UCA or Villa area.”

The appeal also points out that during board meetings, objectors were unable to present images showing how the site would not satisfy transition design solutions outside a UCA. Therefore, they are also appealing based on the grounds that this was not an impartial hearing as they were unable to present their case.

The appeal described the project as “simply the product of including as many residential units as possible into this area…. It is quite clear that the site and the context simply cannot sustain such density and over-development.”

There have been objections about the major traffic this development will bring to the area considering the population in Balzan will increase by 6% and the traffic the new retail shops will bring. Also, the appeal objects to the inadequate Traffic generation Report, which looked at figures during passing over Santa Marija weekend when everything would be closed and Transport Malta’s limited assessment of the proposal.

Moreover, the area is notorious for flooding and the appeal brought up how this application does not include a sufficient engineer’s report and does not take into account how the present buried infrastructure (main sewers) will not be able to withstand this major development.

The appeal also mentions how the development exceeds the total maximum build height declared by the Local Plan. It also states that the three retail shops are 250sq.m in excess of the Central Malta Local Plan.

Many objections have also been raised regarding the mature Ficus Trees found along the pavement where the development will take place. The appeal mentions how there is no Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) approval to remove these trees.

It also objects to the fact that the application does not mention conserving the historical underground of the original Villino Bar-Bil. Instead, this application permits demolishing and destroying it. The appeal says that there is no mention of the historical Nymphaeum and adjacent wall that belonged to Villino Bar-Bil.

With this historical backdrop, the appeal is saying that this application was in the wrong form as it should have been subjected to Schedule 1 screening.

The project has also been scrutinised by Balzan residents and architects for “salami slicing.” This refers to projects which come in the form of different plans.

The Dolphin site development is also linked to another proposed application made by the same developers and architects on Triq il-Papa Piju XII, Birkirkara, corner with Triq Ġużeppi Frendo, Wied Ħal Balzan and Triq il-Kbira.

This second project includes three shops, 11 apartments, and two basement garage levels which can access the Dolphin site.

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