The Malta Independent 18 June 2024, Tuesday
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Zurrieq residents protest plans to assign 12,000 square metres of farmland to be developed

Sabrina Zammit Sunday, 21 May 2023, 15:45 Last update: about 2 years ago

We are committed against the destruction of the rural environment of the country, Zurrieq residents said early on Sunday morning in a protest against threats for some 12,000 square metres of the village’s farmland to become eligible for residential development.

The area of farmland is subject to a Planning Control application to become a residential neighbourhood with a maximum construction height of three stories.

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The zoning modification request is being made by Grand Property Holdings Ltd, and the Planning Authority’s case officer has recommended that the authority grants the request.

The area is one of those pieces of lands which was removed as an ODZ during the infamous 2006 rationalisation process.  The application is set to be heard next Tuesday.

“We don’t know anyone’s agenda,” one resident told those gathered at the protest adding that “all we know is that efforts and manoeuvres are being made by individuals hidden in company structures, so that this place is converted into a development zone.”

He added that if this happens, Zurrieq residents will end up facing a series of applications that lead to the creation of another cluster of buildings.

Last week residents have written to MPs living in the locality, together with political party leaders to warn them of the consequences of approving the proposal for the region.

He noted how building prices in the area do not reflect the real value of the marketed property, and of how landlords are abusing their tenants by allowing more individuals to stay there than what the property caters for.

On the case itself, the protester highlighted how a case officer declared himself in favour of this application despite 1,500 objections, and “serious deficiencies found in the same application.”

“Malta has, in the last three decades, gone through a complete massacre, with the blessing of the so-called Planning Authority, MEPA and now PA,” he said.

“We often hear from those who want to justify the extra construction by saying that we can no longer live in caves. But that is not what is happening here,” said another resident.

They spoke of how authorities such as the Planning Authority cannot be trusted because “either the rules are specially written to help developers, or they bend the laws and create large loopholes for those who want to pig out”.

The residents are appealing to those selling their land for this project to happen to reconsider “if they have a conscience.”

“Instead of selling virgin land to the usual people, sit down with the authorities, the [Zurrieq] local council and us residents, and together we will find a way to preserve the environmental heritage.”

The kind of developments permitted in various geographic locations is determined by local plans.

The notorious "rationalisation" of development borders, which extended construction zones and sparked an unparalleled urban sprawl, is one of the reasons they are frequently blamed for overdevelopment. 

The 2006 neighbourhood designs were finished by George Pullicino, who served as the planning minister at the time and is currently the architect for Grand Property Holdings – the company behind this application.

PN MP Toni Bezzina and PL MEP Alex Agius Saliba were seen in attendance at the gathering.

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