The Malta Independent 19 April 2024, Friday
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TMID Editorial: The continued take-up of ODZ land

Monday, 1 April 2024, 10:08 Last update: about 17 days ago

A new planning application is proposing a home for the elderly on land located Outside the Development Zone.

The site is located at the edge of Wied Mejxu in Swieqi, and the Outline Planning Application is proposing the construction of six storeys. An Outline Development Permission, if granted, is an approval in principle of the full development subject to a number of reserved matters which would need to be included in a full development permit application, which would still have to be filed by the applicant.

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Wied Mejxu, where the development is being proposed, is a small valley which runs as something of a divider between the Tal-Ibragg area in Swieqi and Madliena. While a special Category 1 Settlement on the Madliena side of the valley already exists for residential development, it doesn’t include the land on which the application was made.

While there would be arguments in favour of having care homes close to the country side, a counter argument would be that if the authorities continue to make exceptions, then how much longer will that area remain green? one must also stress the importance of care homes being within the community, and not far away where it is too long a walk to the town centre.

One could argue about this particular development proposal, that on one side the site is already touching buildings. But that would still not be an excuse to approve. If that argument is made, then what is to stop another building with an exemption from popping up next to this if this proposal goes through? Then how much of this green area would be left? Land located Outside the Development Zone needs to be better protected. It serves a purpose. People cannot live constantly suffocated by buildings, and seeing green areas as part of out every day routine has benefits.

This is not the first time elderly care homes have been proposed on ODZ land, and they have been controversially approved in the past.

A prime example of such permits were given on land in between Naxxar and Gharghur where, not just one, but two such homes were granted permits. One has since been constructed, while the other received its permit more recently. Both sites are located just a road away from each other on the outskirts of Naxxar.

Malta has limited space and one cannot continue eating up the countryside. Towns are already merged into each other creating one large urban sprawl. If the green areas and valleys in between continue to be taken up, then there won’t be any green dividers left.

Project Green was set up to create green spaces within the community. But there is something to be said about protecting the green spaces that currently exist. Creating gardens is one thing, preserving nature is better. If the government wants to truly be serious about protecting the environment Malta has, then it needs to set better planning protections.

The government did well when it designated Hondoq ir-Rummien as a Special Area of Conservation. But if it does not take care of the green spaces that exist within heavily urbanised areas, then it is not doing enough.

 

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