Government-owned agricultural land in Żurrieq will be developed only if it benefits the community, the Lands Ministry said on Friday. 

The statement was published following mounting pressure from Żurrieq residents, farmers and the council itself to rescind its consent for a stretch of publically owned land to be rezoned into a residential area. 

The site, in an area known as Tal-Bebbux, is currently tilled by farmers whose families worked the land for generations. It was added to the development zone in 2006, when local plans were updated. 

Times of Malta reported last week that a planning control application is proposing the alignment of a new road through the arable land, connecting Triq il-Kanonku Vinċenz Balzan with Triq l-Imqabba. The application is also proposing residential zoning with a height limitation of three floors plus a semi-basement.

The Lands Authority confirmed with Times of Malta that last year it “gave its consent so that the PA may evaluate the PC application”.

The applicant is Francis Spiteri, who owns Tal-Karmnu Construction Company. His architect is Mauro Debono.

Żurrieq’s PL-led local council also objected to the PC, saying the government had, in the past, committed to allocating at least half of the site for social and community facilities.

On Friday, the Lands Ministry said the government-owned land "will be used only for projects that benefit society and the needs of the Żurrieq community".

However, it did not say whether it would be drawing its consent for the PC.

In the statement, the ministry said it will determine the best use of that land following talks with the local council and stakeholders.

It will meanwhile inform the PA about the government's position over the matter.

When news broke about the PC, Żurrieq residents stuck yellow stickers on their doorbells and letterboxes warning candidates for the European and local elections to stay away unless they were against the Tal-Bebbux application and development plans for In-Nigret

Għaqda Residenti taż-Żurrieq and Moviment Graffitti have also planned a demonstration on Saturday against the application. 

On Friday, Moviment Graffitti said the government's statement comes after the same ministry had given its go-ahead to the developer to submit an application "to develop that land into blocks of apartments".

"As a first step, the Lands Authority should officially withdraw the consent it had given to the developer when he submitted the application with the PA."

NGO Il-Kollettiv and Għaqda Residenti taż-Żurrieq meanwhile said on Facebook they took note of the government's commitment against development at tal-Bebbux.

However, for as long as conditions continued to allow development on virgin land, they would continue taking a stand against development in the locality.

They commended the efforts of the local council but said the fight at tal-Bebbux was not over yet.

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