Żejtun activists want the government to amend 2006 local plans to definitively protect agricultural land around the Bulebel Industrial Estate from future development.

The request, made by community activist group Wirt iż-Żejtun, comes six years after the government vowed not to expand the industrial zone into those rural areas.

Although a government-majority parliamentary committee had at the time recommended that local plans be changed to designate the area as protected, this has not happened to date.

In a statement on Saturday, Wirt iż-Żejtun said they now wanted the government to follow through on that promise, restore public pathways and transfer government-owned land in the area to Project Green, the state entity responsible for community greening projects.

Their request revives an issue that made headlines back in 2018, when the government sought to expand the Bulebel Industrial Estate.

Land around the industrial estate in an area known as Wied iż-Żrinġ was earmarked for future expansion back in the 1980s. It retained that designation when planners updated local plans in 2006, though a provision called for “further study to determine the agricultural value of the area before any additional industrial development can be permitted.”

That notwithstanding, in 2010 the land in question to placed under the responsibility of Malta Industrial Parks (now INDIS) and in late 2015 farmers in the Wied iż-Żrinġ area received eviction notices, giving them one month to vacate their land.

The notices sparked public uproar and a years-long battle by Żejtun residents and activists to drop the plan.

In 2018, the government did just that. That decision was followed by a meeting of parliament’s environment and planning committee in April 2018, during which members called on the government to amend the area’s local plan to make the area outside the development zone.

That recommendation was never taken up, leaving Żejtun residents fearful that industrial development plans for the Wied iż-Żrinġ area might eventually be revived.

The current Robert Abela-led government has shown its willingness to amend local plans for similar reasons in other parts of the country: the Planning Authority has kickstarted the process to protect the Ħondoq ir-Rummien area in Gozo from future development by changing local plans and Abela also made a public pledge in parliament to amend Marsascala’s local plan to forbid any marina development there.

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