The building of a new Chinese embassy on previously untouched land would be an attack on green open spaces that the people of Pembroke turned to for their well-being, residents  have told Times of Malta.

Among their chief concerns, residents decry the loss of thriving garigue land – which is frequently used for recreation – in the name of development.

They worry what the depletion of virgin land would mean for the rich biodiversity typical to the area.

A planning application was presented last month to build a sprawling compound on a 19,000 square-metre site, which includes woodland, just off the Regional Road and not far from the historic Australia Hall.

Parts of it are set to rise five floors under the plans, although the Pembroke local council, which is not objecting to the project, has said it would strive to keep the building low-rise.

A grassroots campaign started by residents and environmentalists opposing the development has reached well over 700 objections at time of writing.

“This area is another haven, devoid of concrete and beautiful in itself. It is used by many to picnic, walk, play and escape from it all after a long hard day. As do other similar green spaces, it gives peace of mind and serenity,” resident Rita Zammit, a healthcare worker, said. Pembroke, she said, was being bombarded on all sides.

This area is another haven, devoid of concrete and beautiful in itself

“Everyone wants what remains of the open spaces in this community. These spaces should be left open and green. Past mistakes should not be repeated. We learn from our mistakes. Green areas are vital in many respects.”

For 28-year-old Liam Camilleri, the sacrifice of more trees in a town that is gradually becoming more population and traffic dense is far too high a price to pay.

“The proposed development will deprive our community and Malta in general of healthy flora and fauna of many diverse species, mature olive, almond and aleppo pine trees. Pembroke used to be plentiful with green areas but they have been dwindling by the hour,” he said.

The site earmarked for the embassy is the last forested area of Pembroke. “With it die our lungs against the heavy traffic of St Andrew’s main road.”

Camilleri believes this and the high prevalence of asthma is enough reason for the compound to be built elsewhere. Residents of Pembroke and the Maltese in general need to be vigilant because green areas had been sacrificed for buildings everywhere, he added.

Aside from the impact that continued development could have on the environment, Pembroke resident Luana believes that the large construction project will alter the character of the town.

“Pembroke was known for its beauty and tranquility, but since 2015, we have been inundated with permits for development – the db hotel, the Chinese embassy and Chiswick school are just three that we protested against recently,” she said.

“At this rate, Pembroke is going to become the next Paceville – it’s sad and horrible to even think about it! We want our home to be left as it is and we have a right to have a say in it.

“My neighbourhood has several beautiful buildings from the British colonial period; one of them is Australia Hall. Building out of character next to such an iconic building will be an eyesore to say the least.”

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