A developer behind plans to build a block of apartments on previously untouched land wants to extend his site into a buffer zone designed to protect ancient cart ruts.

The planning control application seeks to rezone the protected Kalkara land from its current status as a Rural Conservation Area, to allow it to be developed.

Last year, the Planning Authority approved the controversial application to develop 14 apartments, four maisonettes and a 10-car garage on Triq it-Turretta and Triq Patri Mattew Sultana.

An appeal funded by activists to overturn the decision was rejected by the Planning Tribunal in January.

Now the developer, Ray Zammit, wants to take up an additional 180 square metres of land. It serves as a buffer zone for cart ruts, mysterious deep grooves in the rock that date back thousands of years, which residents say were discovered during the construction of Triq it-Turretta in the 1990s.

The approved development lies within the development zone but the surrounding area is not zoned for construction.

A decision has been deferred by the executive council of the Planning Authority until an archaeological study is carried out on the site.

The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage has said that without an archaeological evaluation, the site cannot be properly assessed and should be refused. It noted that the site lies 16 metres from protected cart ruts and within an area of high landscape value of the harbour fortifications.

It is also next  to an area where a large reservoir and natural rock cavities were discovered.

The Environment and Resources Authority also objects to the application describing it as an “encroachment of development” on an area of conservation.

It added that the proposal “raises considerable environmental concerns regarding the loss of additional land within the rural conservation to be used for development”.

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