The Malta Independent 25 September 2023, Monday
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Parliament spars over transfer of Zebbug land for access road to supermarket and car park

Semira Abbas Shalan Tuesday, 6 June 2023, 17:46 Last update: about 5 months ago

The government and opposition on Tuesday sparred in Parliament on Tuesday after Lands Minister Silvio Schembri tabled a motion for the transfer of property of a piece of government land to a company Central Business Centres p.l.c (CBC plc), to allow for the building of an access road for supermarket and parking spaces below and at street level.

Tabled in Parliament, a debate was held on whether a piece of land in Zebbug should be transferred to Central Business Centres, a company which was established to facilitate project financing within the properties of the Cortis Group of Companies.

CBC plc obtained development permission from the Planning Authority under PA/01292/19 to consolidate all existing structures, excavate the land to create a basement, and modify structures below street level for commercial use (Class 4B) and small industry (Class 5A).

This proposed project will provide parking space below street level, at street level, and a supermarket at street level at the site known as SMW Cortis Building on Triq l-Imdina, Triq H’Attard in Zebbug.

CBC plc is requesting to acquire title over this land, to ensure adequate access and to comply with the approved permit, considering that part of the land covered by the permit consists of government-owned land, which is currently an unused public road.

Once the proposed project is concluded, Cortis Timber & Wood Products Ltd, another company within Cortis Group, would relocate its operations to the proposed building at street level, and continuing to operate the supermarket at street level.

The Lands Authority considered that this transfer should be made under a temporary emphyteusis concession for a period of 65 years, subject to an annual fee of €39,800, which will be revised every 10 years based on the inflation index, or 10% of the current fee, whichever is higher.

“Considering the economic benefits that such development will bring, the increase in employment, and the positive impact on the Maltese economy, the Lands Authority deems it justifiable to transfer an area of 1,366 square meters of land located on Triq l-Imdina in Ħaż-Żebbuġ, to Central Business Centres p.l.c. for the proposed project, according to the development permit PA/01292/19,” the motion read.

During the debate, PN MPs argued that this proposed development uses more of the limited land available in the country, and questioned if it was being done in the best interests of Maltese citizens.

The PN said that Zebbug residents have opposed the proposed project, and are fighting for the last pieces of land left in the locality.

PN MP Darren Carabott said that the area in question falls under ODZ land, and questioned if, even with regards to a small piece of land, if the country is truly protecting ODZ land.

He said that the PN’s proposed bill for the environment to become a fundamental right to the individual, is all the more important, as government wants to continue with uncontrolled development.

Lands Minister Silvio Schembri argued that this piece of land is merely an access road, which is currently being unused. He said that the current road is already a road, not a garden, an open space.

Schembri said that many arterial roads are built on ODZ land, which is necessary to connect towns and villages.

Schembri said that the choice was between leaving the unused road as is, just to say that it is public land, or proceed with being given the title on a permit which has already been issued.

He referred to the PN’s statements as excuses to interfere with the government's economic growth.

The PL said that government has received positive feedback on its economic model, which attracts increasing foreign direct investment in the country.

The project contributes to economic benefits, as well as the employment of more people in the jobs created once the project is concluded, the PL said.

The motion passed in the House of Representative, with a division requested.

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