A statement issued on February 3 by the Economy Ministry announcing four new developments claimed that no outside development zone (ODZ) land will be used for any of these projects.
The ministry was announcing plans to table four parliamentary resolutions for the projects to receive public land concessions, allowing them to go ahead.
The projects are:
- The extension of the Fortina lido
- The squaring off of the Freeport
- The redevelopment of the former Edible Oils factory
- The development of a LIDL in Żebbuġ.
In its statement, the Economy Ministry said that the project would follow the government’s policy of care towards the environment and that therefore “no kind of virgin land or land outside the development zone will be used for these projects”.
This claim was repeated in comments given to One News, where Economy Minister Silvio Schembri said that “no additional or ODZ land will be used for these projects, but they will instead be carried out on property that is already developed and replace old buildings that will be demolished and be regenerated”.
The Planning Authority’s policy guidelines define ODZ land as “areas located outside the designated areas in the Local Plans where urban development is permitted, excluding rural settlements”.
LIDL supermarket in Żebbuġ
One of the four projects listed in Schembri’s statement is the development of a LIDL supermarket in Żebbuġ, on a stretch of land currently occupied by SMW Cortis.
Plans for this project first raised eyebrows in 2018, when the Żebbuġ local council submitted an objection to the project, arguing that “any development extensions onto ODZ spaces should be justified especially in areas of recreational potential, ecological value and uniqueness. The local council can never approve any type of development on ODZ land”.
Residents of the town also objected to the development, arguing that the town needs a green lung, rather than a supermarket. Other concerns were raised by NGOs Flimkien Għall-Ambjent Aħjar and Din l-Art Ħelwa, who argued that the project ran counter to the PA’s own policies for the zone.
The project will take up a total land area of 13,846 square metres.
2,200 square metres, or 16 per cent of the site, will be used for the supermarket itself, with most of the development, 8,540 square metres (61 per cent), dedicated to the car park and hard landscaping. A further 3,106 square metres will be landscaped.
The supermarket’s footprint was initially set to take up 33 per cent of the site, however this was later reduced to 16 per cent after the Planning Authority instructed the applicants to reduce the take up of ODZ land.
What does the area’s local plan say?
The Żebbuġ local plan, published in 2006 following the rationalisation of development zones carried out at the time, establishes the land usage for the town, marking which areas can be used for residential purposes and which for commercial or other uses.
The site in question lies just north of the town’s residential boundary, outside the development zone earmarked for the town.
The PA’s case officer report notes that “part of the site in question is located within an Area of Containment and the rest of the site is located outside the limits for development of Zebbug (…) The proposed supermarket is proposed to be constructed mostly within the Area of Containment and the parking area is proposed to be located Outside Development Zone”.
This is also mentioned in the minutes of the Authority’s board meeting on the proposal, held in July 2020.
The Planning Authority defines an area of containment as an area that is used to “predominantly accommodate industrial or commercial related activities located outside the development zone”.
When asked to comment, a spokesperson for Schembri said “although it is outside the development zone, this parcel of land cannot be considered as virgin land either, besides this land will still continue to be used as a road and there won’t be any buildings on it”.
The area’s local plan shows that part of the development of the LIDL supermarket in Żebbuġ will be taking place on ODZ land. This is confirmed by the project’s plans and the Planning Authority’s documentation related to the development. A spokesperson for the Economy Ministry also confirmed that this is the case, contrary to the ministry's initial statement.
The claim is therefore false as the evidence clearly refutes the claim.
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