A new application has been presented to develop a residential block Outside Development Zones over 1,437 square metres of abandoned agricultural land in Triq San Gwann in Gharghur.
If the development is allowed it would result in an ad hoc extension of the development zone.
While a small part of the property lies at the edge of the development zone most of it is located in ODZ.
As had happened in an application foreseeing four new ODZ dwellings in Triq San Rokku Kalkara approved just before general elections, the developer is first seeking an Outline Development Permit through which he would first secure a commitment for residential development in the area before applying for a full development permit.
Sources in the Planning Authority have described the application as a crude attempt to extend development zones on an ad hoc basis.
“Applications for new dwellings in the ODZ have become very rare as developers are exploiting other loopholes in ODZ policies like those allowing the reconstruction of ruins of older buildings. This application represents a bolder attempt as it clearly proposes development where none is allowed by any policy.”
Applications for residential development at the edge of present ODZ boundaries may become more common if the new local plans initiated in 2013 are not finalised, sources told The Shift.
The PA had received 7,000 submissions from the public including several proposing changes to development boundaries.
The development proposed in Gharghur consists of garages at basement level, four overlying floors of residential units and a penthouse level.
An application presented by previous owners also envisioning residential development had been rejected by the Planning Authority in 2002.
The Environment Resources Authority has objected to the proposed development. The ERA expressed its concern that approval of this application may also create a precedent for further urban built-up structures within this particular area which would result in further uptake of undeveloped land. In its report sent to the Planning Authority, the ERA also insisted there was no justification for this type of urban development in this particular area.
The application was presented by architect Charles Buhagiar, a former Labour MP and Chairman of the Building Industry Consultative Council, on behalf of site owner Emmanel Farrugia.
In 2016 Buhagiar was only second to architect Robert Musumeci when it came to securing ODZ permits for clients. In that year alone Buhagiar had secured 49 such permits.