A Gozitan farmer known to be close to Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri is asking the Planning Authority for permission to turn one of Gozo’s remaining green lungs into a fully-fledged industrial sheep farm, spanning the size of more than two football grounds.
The proposal – made by Lawrence Cassar and architect Alexander Bigeni, the Gozo Minister’s former consultant and relative– is for the pristine landscape separating Victoria from the village of Sannat to be turned into a massive sheep farm of industrial proportions.
The proposal, which had already been made in 2016 and withdrawn after resistance met from the PA, includes the demolition of a small rural room, built illegally and currently under an enforcement order, a 1,400 square metre plant built to house the sheep and the processes for the production of their by-products, including cheeselets (ġbejniet), and a vast area for other connected activities.
The application, expected to be determined by the PA next week, found the opposition of many NGOs including Wirt Ghawdex and Din l-Art Helwa. It is also opposed by the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA), the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage and the Agricultural Advisory Committee.
Described as a ‘no-go’ application, as it runs afoul of several current policies, the PA is slating the proposal for refusal. However, in the last session the PA had given the architect time to consult with his client and come up with new plans.
Despite some later amendments, the PA is still finding the development application as totally objectionable.
Sources close to the PA told The Shift that this is not the first time Cassar had made the proposal as the farmer, one registered as having just some 80 ruminants. The real objective for years, it is, however, claimed, is to develop the pristine agricultural, high landscape value area.
“His last attempt was in 2017, close to the election as he though he could get it right with some political manoeuvring. When that backfired, he tried again – this time using a well-connected Gozitan architect with the powers-that-be. Still, his proposal is a nonstarter,” sources said.
In its objections, the ERA highlighted that the development would result in take-up of ODZ land, the introduction of a new large-scale development together with other physical interventions including creation of new access and adverse impacts on the rural character of the area.
The Authority told the PA that the development’s approval, together with other development in the area, would contribute to additional take-up of undeveloped rural land and sprawl of built structures. This, in turn would result in the proliferation of built development in rural areas and its impacts on the rural characteristics of the area.
Over recent years, the developers who have uglified vast swaths of land across Malta have turned their sights on the once tranquil sister island of Gozo.
Through various applications, mostly spearheaded by Nadur construction magnate Joseph Portelli, the PA has allowed Gozo to be turned into another building zone, with sporadic large blocks being erected in once sleepy villages known for their traditional settings and traditional characteristics.