Environment Minister Jose Herrera would not pronounce himself on the proposed extension of the Bulebel industrial estate, which according to Wirt iz-Żejtun, a local non-government organisation (NGO) working in the heritage sector, will take up 67,440 square metres of agricultural land which also includes 70 carob trees.
This would see the one of the smallest countries in the world lose the equivalent of 11 football grounds of agricultural ODZ land.
A spokesperson for Herrera highlighted the fact that the land in question has been included in the 2006 Local Plans subject to further studies.
“The Ministry remains committed in safeguarding agricultural and ecologically important land through ongoing efforts and positions taken”, the ministry spokesperon said while referring to the call made by Herrera for a revision of the controversial Fuel Stations Policy.
But according to Herrera “planning decisions are finally and independently taken by the respective authorities and after established procedures are followed and views from different stakeholders including those from the Environment and Resource Authority are taken into consideration”.
Herrera was less cautious when back in August he had joined a protest organised by Pembroke residents against the construction of a private school in Pembroke. News of the controversial extension of the Bulebel industrial estate coincided with an announcement by Herrera on the creation of a “big park in the south.”
But government’s plans for Bulebel were met by a strong reaction from Wirt iz-Zejtun.
Writing on the facebook page, architect Ruben Abela – the President of the organisation and the former Chief Executive Officer of the Malta and Resources Authority – called on Zejtun residents to share his post which included the article published in The Shift on Saturday.
“This will be the first sign of protest by us Zwieten. Others will follow if Malta Industrial Parks persists.”
The intention to develop the site was confirmed by a spokesperson for Economy Minister Chris Cardona who told the Shift that the site is already included in “planning policies as land earmarked for industrial expansion”.
Moreover according to the economy ministry farmers in the area described as the “current occupiers” do not hold any title whatsoever.
According to a ministry spokesperson the MIP intends “to safeguard when possible any valuable trees in the area”.
“The planning considerations that MIP will conduct includes the possible inclusion of ‘natural lungs’ that provide break-out spaces integrated within its industrial project where possible”.
Zejtun PN councillors Amanda Abela and Raymond Caruana objected to the proposed extension of the industrial estate.
Apart from its agricultural value the land in question may have archaeological value due to the Punic tombs continuously being discovered in its vicinity. The land is earmarked for industrial expansion in the 2006 Local Plan but only after studies assessing the quality of agriculture in the area are undertaken.