The Malta Independent 12 July 2024, Friday
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Xemxija residents publish open letter calling on PM to protect garigue land from construction

Tuesday, 4 June 2024, 18:11 Last update: about 2 months ago

A group of over 150 Xemxija residents, mainly from the Xemxija Heights area, have sent an open letter to the government, calling on it to safeguard a site of relatively untouched garigue "that is under threat from a planning application to build a 13-storey tower with close to 300 apartments," Moviment Graffitti has said.

The open letter was sent to Prime Minister Robert Abela, Minister for the Environment Miriam Dalli, Minister for Planning Clint Camilleri and Minister for Tourism Clayton Bartolo.

"This is the second time residents are making their voices heard, after holding a press conference organised with the support of Moviment Graffitti and other NGOs in March. That press conference followed a motion by the St Paul's Bay Local Council calling on the government to purchase the land and turn it over for public use."

Residents are concerned for several reasons.

"First, the site is ecologically important, hosts several rare and indigenous lifeforms, including orchids of 'significant ecological value' - as determined by ERA. The residents contest the authority's claim that the built footprint will not impinge on the flora, providing data that shows that the endemic Maltese pyramidal orchid can be found all over the site. They also point out that building a 13-storey tower metres away from delicate plants is certain to cause harm."

Apart from orchids, the site is also home to a wide variety of endemic flora and fauna, including the exceedingly rare fairy shrimp, the NGO said.

"The site is also an Area of Archaeological Importance. The cart ruts on the site itself are among the remains found in the archaeologically rich area where Punic and Roman remains are found. Residents also expressed their concern that the project will cause problems of access, since the area is only accessible through a pair of steep, narrow streets, one of which is unusable by service vehicle, or by any vehicle when wet."

"Taken in conjunction with the ongoing redevelopment of the former Mistra Village, they warn that the area is set to triple in size, from around 450 to sound 1,500 apartments, in just a couple of years. Residents are therefore expressing their full support for the St Paul's Bay Local Council's motion calling on government to buy the land and turn it over for public use. They are also calling for the site to be given the highest possible level of protection it is due for its unique ecological characteristics - Area of Ecological Importance Level 1."

"Most of the signatories are residents of the area most directly impacted, including Triq il-Maqdes Megalitiku, Triq Piscopo Macedonia, Triq Katerina Vitale, Triq l-Imġiebaħ and Triq il-Preistorja. The open letter was also supported by several environmental NGOs and candidates for St Paul's Bay Local Council."


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