ERA, Local Council, NGOs oppose Għajnsielem ODZ flats and retail centre

The Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) has labelled an application for a residential complex and retail centre seeking to be built partially on outside development zone land in Għajnsielem, Gozo, as “objectionable”.

ERA’s opposition to the proposal joins NGOs, the Għajnsielem Local Council, and hundreds of individual objectors who submitted representations to the project’s application page on the Planning Authority website.

The application (PA/4619/23) proposes a four-storey, 18-unit residential apartment block, pool, supermarket, retail shop and three underground levels of car parking and is the second application on the same plot of land. The first, for a supermarket and plant nursery, was withdrawn by the applicant in 2022 following an unfavourable ERA report.

In its submission last week, ERA said, “The interventions proposed beyond the development zone are of environmental concern since these will result in uptake of undeveloped rural land, urban sprawl ODZ, site formalisation and visual impacts on the surrounding environment.”

The ERA case officer also noted how “the proposed use of the site for recreational and commercial uses is not considered suitable within this area ODZ, and such development should be limited to areas already designated for such uses,” concluding that the “development application is objectionable from an environmental point of view.”

This month, The Shift reported how the Għajnsielem Local Council was expected to object to the development. The Local Council has since submitted its representation, raising concerns about the applicant’s plans for the remaining undeveloped section of the ODZ parcel of land.

It said, “Of major concern is that the part of the site which will be built is partially in ODZ. As to the remaining section of the designated site, wholly in ODZ, the applicant omits reference to its usage.”

The local council further cited the proposal’s incompatibility with neighbouring dwellings’ design and breach of planning design and strategic planning (SPED) policies.

NGO Moviment Graffitti also called on the public to object to the project, calling it “atrocious” and calling for its immediate rejection. They said, “Approving this application would be detrimental to the natural environment and quality of life in the area and the surrounding archaeological site.”

At the time of publishing, the application has also garnered around 200 individual objections from the public, signalling widespread opposition to the project.

The apartments and retail centre application is still awaiting a Planning Authority case officer recommendation with a target decision date set as 25 November.

                           

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Dr Ray Bondin
Dr Ray Bondin
9 months ago

This part of the main Gozo Road is of great archaeological importance recorded since more than 100 years ago. Never fully excavated. There are important traces of the dwellings of the temple builders, unique in Malta. Permit should be refused outright.

Emmanuel Cilia Debono
Emmanuel Cilia Debono
9 months ago

The ERA should honestly fulfil its role as watchdog of the environment rather than act as a cover up for powerful business people who have progressively (or rather ‘regressively ‘ denuded our heritage and resources for personal gain.

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