The environment watchdog has expressed serious concerns about a proposed seven-storey home for the elderly outside a development zone in Għarb.

The Environment and Resources Authority said the proposed site was on the edge of the development zone and was mostly located ODZ, characterised by agricultural fields.

The proposed old people’s home on a vacant plot in Triq l-Isqof Mikiel Molina and Triq il-Blata, will include ancillary facilities such as a day centre, medical clinics, a gymnasium, indoor and outdoor pools, a chapel and other amenities.

The project, with an underground car park, will cover a total area of just over 5,300 square metres, encroaching significantly beyond the development zone boundary, ERA said.

The applicant is Emanuel Joseph Farrugia, managing director of Victoria-based Trends Development Co. Ltd, operator of St Elizabeth Prime Care Residential and Nursing Home in Rabat. The architect is Alexander Bigeni.

“The proposal would result in take-up of open rural land for the purpose of introduction of an urban-type land use on a site which is characterised by arable fields,” ERA said.

ERA said the urban sprawl would have an adverse impact on the rural landscape. “This development is objectionable from an environmental point of view,” it added.

It said an Environmental Impact Assessment and project description statement “would not resolve [its] objection”.

Residents are strongly opposed to the development in the quaint village.

“What they are proposing to do in the sleepy village of Għarb is obscene. It will destroy the very fabric of the place. The infrastructure of the village simply can’t sustain a seven-storey monstrosity on an ODZ. The old people’s home is just a cunning ruse, a loophole allowing them on pristine ODZ land,” one resident said when contacted.

“Twice refused, they are trying again... If they get it, they will change the lay of the land. The very charm of Għarb will go the way of Xlendi and Marsalforn and be destroyed because once one permit is granted, it will only be a matter of time,” he added.

The Farrugia family’s first application in 1994 was rejected by the Planning Authority in 1996. The decision was confirmed on appeal 2001. Another application presented in 2008 was withdrawn 10 years later.

The PA’s advisory panel on agriculture is also objecting to the project.

The Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development allows the development of elderly homes and health facilities in the ODZ but only if developers had previously considered other sites within the development zone or in already committed areas. 

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