A controversial application to add two football pitches worth of agricultural land to the Żabbar development zone has been dropped, following a storm of environmental objections.

The zoning application would have opened the door for development on a massive 14,000 square metres of land off Labour Avenue, currently outside the development zone and designated as a strategic open gap and agricultural area. 

Since being published for consultation by the Planning Authority last month, it attracted some 200 objections from residents and environmental groups, which said approval would undermine planning restrictions and continue to eat up important open spaces.

A notice on the PA server indicates that the application has now been withdrawn.

The PA has not shown itself amenable to such requests from private developers to extend the development boundary – two applications for the same changes in Għasri and Xlendi were unanimously rejected by the executive council just last March.

In an objection to the Żabbar proposal, eNGO Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar pointed to the rejection of the two Gozo applications and argued that planning policy specifically ruled out such modifications to the development zone.

“Such a request seeks to increase the development zone boundaries through fragmented applications compromising the integrity and overall protection offered to the rural area through the existing planning framework,” the NGO said.

It argued that the application could “under no circumstances be deemed as holistic or sustainable planning” and warned of the detrimental effect “on our environment and on the very integrity of our planning system”, calling for the PA to reject it outright.

The group Futur Ambjent Wieħed argued that the “chaotic piecemeal development of ODZ” would have a devastating impact on the environment and show the “total futility of the planning system”.

The Żabbar local council had also indicated its intention to object to the proposal.

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