Revised plans to widen main roads in Attard and build a new bypass in the town have been submitted, with farmers in affected areas being told works on the project, dubbed Central Link, will soon begin.
Around 400 trees and a vast tract of agricultural land will be removed if the latest version of the plans get the go-ahead. However, the government is pledging to mitigate these losses by planting hundreds of trees.
This move had been announced in reaction to the first version of the plans which were published by the Times of Malta last year.
Farmers told to prepare for works
A farmer who spoke to the Times of Malta on condition of anonymity revealed that he was recently told by Infrastructure Malta employees that works were due to start at the end of this month, even though the permit has not been issued yet.
He said that a few days ago Infrastructure Malta employees turned up at his farm in Attard “to take measurements”.
“I was told to start preparing to vacate the land as works were due to commence at the end of June,” he said.
Denouncing this project as it would result in the complete destruction of his farm, he questioned why the government did not consider other options which would have had a much less negative environmental impact.
“Why are we being treated differently from the Paceville and Pembroke area where the government has just announced plans to excavate four tunnels to alleviate traffic?” he questioned.
Controversy from the start
Unveiled in May last year, the project aims to mitigate traffic in Attard by widening existing roads and the construction of a new bypass on the outskirts of the village. The project immediately fuelled controversy due to the environmental impact, forcing Infrastructure Malta to revise the plans multiple times.
A few days ago fresh plans were submitted to the Planning Authority. It transpires that the project will result in the uprooting of about 200 trees while a further 200 will be transplanted.
When compared to the first version of the plans it is a marked improvement as fewer trees will be disturbed, particularly in the stretch between Mount Carmel Hospital and the bottom of Saqqajja Hill. Plans were also submitted for the planting of hundreds of trees along the entire stretch of the 4.3-kilometre road.
Plans were also submitted of the structures which will have to make way – these range from agricultural underground water reservoirs to greenhouses, rubble walls and in some case large buildings.
The most notable demolition will be that of an old building close to St Paul’s chapel, to make way for the new bypass which will be adjacent to Triq Ferdinandu Inglott, Triq Tumas Chetcuti and Triq Oliver Agius – all of which are residential roads.
Though the project is still at planning stage, events in recent days indicate that the granting of a permit seems to be a foregone conclusion.
Last year, Infrastructure Malta had flouted planning procedures by encroaching on private land as part of a widening project of Triq Tal-Balal between San Ġwann and Naxxar. It was only at a later stage that it sought to regularise its position.
Times of Malta sought an explanation from Infrastructure Malta why it had already planned to start works this month, even though no permit had been issued.
In a lengthy reply, a spokesman confirmed the permit was still pending but pointed out it was planning in advance to start straight away if the Planning Authority gave the green light.
He also said the agency was liaising with the Lands Authority to complete the lease termination and expropriation processes for the land required, subject to permits.
“The indicated site visit forms part of the ongoing preparatory process, so if the permits are issued, this long-overdue infrastructural improvement can be completed as soon as possible,” he said.
As for the environmental cost of this project, the agency said it was much less than the original plans drafted in 2006.
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