Din L-Art Ħelwa’s newly-established Gozo branch has presented three recommendations for planners in Gozo, warning that a failure to slam the brakes on overdevelopment on the island will lead to it being “lost forever.” 

The recommendations would lead to a year-long pause to controversial development practices in Gozo, while planning policies for Malta’s sister island are revised and redrafted.  

They are to freeze planning applications for Gozitan Outside Development Zone areas, extend Urban Conservation Area protection in Gozitan villages by a further 250 metres and pause a height limitation policy that environmentalists say is ruining towns and villages. 

Formally launched on Saturday by a group of Gozitans and Gozo residents dismayed by overdevelopment on the island, Din L-Art Ħelwa Għawdex (DLĦGħ) founding member Godfrey Swain said the organization would serve as a pressure group and watchdog, lobbying authorities and public for the protection of the landscape and rich architectural legacy of Gozo. 

Video: Daniel Cilia.

Warnings by environmental activists that development in Gozo is speeding out of control have been bolstered by political support in recent months, with all Gozitan local councils as well as major lobby groups banding together to warn that construction is ruining Gozo. 

That warning was reiterated on Saturday by photographer and activist Daniel Cilia, who called on the government and Planning Authority to review present planning guidelines for Gozo over the next 12 months. 

During that period, DLĦGħ is recommending: 

1. A freeze on all ODZ development applications for residential and industrial uses, save for genuine agricultural applications of up to 12 square metres

2. A temporary extension of current UCA boundaries by 250 metres, to create a new buffer zone enjoying the same level of protection as UCA 

3. A suspension of building height rules set out in Annex 2 of the PA’s Development Control Policy, Guidance and Standards 2015, better known as DC15. 

The three temporary measures would give Gozo’s urban and rural landscape some respite from the incessant drum of development while the government reviews planning policies and drafts more effective rules for the island, DLĦGħ believes. 

Din L-Art Ħelwa president Alex Torpiano (second from left) speaks during the official launch of Din L-Art Ħelwa Għawdex.Din L-Art Ħelwa president Alex Torpiano (second from left) speaks during the official launch of Din L-Art Ħelwa Għawdex.

Talk about freezing ODZ applications as a means of limiting the damage caused by overdevelopment had already surfaced in 2019 but went nowhere, with the PA saying at the time that “no consensus could be achieved”. 

A proposal to extend UCA protections stems from concerns about large developments being approved right on the periphery of protected village cores. Activists say that while planning policies already list a transition zone between UCA and development areas, this is not being enforced. 

Annex 2 of the PA’s DC15 lays out building height limitations. Activists say its interpretation runs contrary to the spirit of the PA document and has led to overly tall buildings being built in areas out of context. 

Gozo Regional Council president Samuel Azzopardi was a guest speaker at the DLĦGħ launch event. 
Those interested in joining Din l-Art Ħelwa Għawdex are invited to click on  and signify interest in joining the Gozo regional group by sending an email to info@dinlarthelwa.org or visiting the DLĦ website's membership page.

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