Both the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) and the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage (SCH) have flagged significant concerns in relation to a planning application that seeks to build a ‘poultry farm’ on agricultural land outside the development zone in Gozo’s Wied Għasri.
The poultry farm proposal, which would occupy an area of around 660sqm in an otherwise undeveloped, high landscape value area, is “objectionable from an environmental point of view,” according to the ERA.
“The ERA is significantly concerned about the proposals for farms in the open countryside, since the approval of such development would likely lead to additional pressures for similar developments in this rural area ODZ (Outside Development Zone),” the ERA states.
The SCH, while flagging similar environmental concerns, also highlighted the fact that the proposed site is just 225m away from the Chapel of Patronage of the Virgin and an adjacent small hamlet, and just 140m away from a tomb located to its south.
“Given the culturally sensitive context outlined above, the Superintendence immediately expresses its concern at the proposed development, which consists of a poultry farm with ancillary facilities,” the SCH’s consultation reply reads.
“The Superintendence notes with concern that the proposed development is excessive within this culturally significant area,” it adds, further describing the proposed development as “incompatible” with the surrounding rural landscape.
Five residents with property in the surrounding area, along with a company named Gozo Farmhouses Ltd, also filed an extensive joint objection, one of dozens that have been filed so far ahead of the closure of the application’s public consultation phase on 1 February.
The submission even includes visual renderings of long distance photomontages which should have been submitted by the applicant’s architect, with objectors highlighting how the envisioned building height of 4.33m “would not fit in with the rural context” and “would not maintain the visual integrity of the area”.
The joint objection highlighted investments made in properties to be rented out for holiday purposes, a practice “established for many years”.
“The siting of a chicken farm very close to these residences would spell the cessation of this industry, owing to the obnoxious smells, operating hours, noise from machinery and the chickens themselves,” the objection reads, with all objectors reserving their rights against both the applicant and the Planning Authority (PA) itself “should any decision be taken which prejudices this industry”.
In an article published three weeks ago, The Shift already highlighted several breaches of environmental protection laws the proposal implies, with the residents’ objection emphasising the fact that the applicant, Louis Cauchi, is not officially registered as a poultry farmer.
The objection also highlights the applicants’ unconfirmed suspicion that Cauchi is not the actual owner of the land, meaning that Cauchi may have made a false declaration of ownership. The applicant could not be reached for comment.
Besides breaching several rural objectives from the PA’s Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development, such as the need for the protection of good quality agricultural land and the need for development to match its surroundings, the proposal also breaches Local Plan directives.
Wied Għasri is supposed to be protected land given its listing as an Area of High Landscape Value, a Category A valley, and Land of Agricultural Value. A natural spring located 100m away from the site could also be potentially affected by any runoff from the proposed poultry farm.
The objectors also flagged issues in relation to how vehicles would be able to go in and out of the site given that they would need to request third party access to the road along with an exacerbation of parking and traffic problems on the road.