Updated 1.30pm with hearing outcomes
The Planning Authority has left open the door to two development proposals in the protected Wied Għomor despite a flurry of objections from environmental authorities, local councils and NGOs.
The two unrelated applications ‒ one to double the size of an existing farmhouse and add a pool, the other to level an area of sloping fields and build a greenhouse ‒ had both been recommended for refusal.
However, at hearings on Wednesday, the Planning Commission board requested changes to the two proposals which would address the reasons for refusal, deferring both to June 12 for a final decision.
The board called for a slight reduction in the size of the planned residence, as well as increased landscaping and other changes, and an overall down-scaling of the extent of changes proposed in the other application.
Wied Għomor, a scheduled site of ecological and scientific importance between Swieqi and San Ġwann, has faced increasing development pressures in recent years.
The residential application, just outside the development zone off Triq Josef Kalleja, has drawn the ire of the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) which said the current existing rural structure was “solely being used as a leverage to obtain a permit for a full blown residential building ODZ”.
The proposed additions, it said, would engulf the existing structure and visually dominate and disrupt its rural surroundings, due to the building’s location on a valley side.
ERA also warned that the applicant had already started land clearance and excavating without the necessary permits, and was also seeking to sanction an unauthorised boundary wall and create two new access roads.
“These unauthorised interventions have contributed to environmental disturbance and affected the ecological value of the site by committing a sizable portion of land forming part of Wied Għomor valley,” the watchdog said.
The San Ġwann local council, as well as those of Swieqi and St Julian’s, have argued that the proposal would have a significant visual impact, and that the creation of a swimming pool had “absolutely nothing to do with the natural context of the valley”, violating rural planning policy.
The PA case officer, who recommended rejection, has said the proposed extensions to the farmhouse were excessive and would overshadow the existing structure, while the access roads “would lead to further intensification of urban development and formalisation within this ODZ area”.
The second application, off Triq il-Bies, is facing similar objections despite seeking a more rural-style development including a greenhouse, reservoir and tools room.
However, the application seeks to level ground along the Wied Għomor valley side, leading to what the ERA called a “significant change in the topography of the area”.
The watchdog also said there was no justification for the proposed tools room, or proof of arable farming, with neither the applicant nor the site registered with the Agriculture Directorate.
The surrounding towns’ local councils were also among some 60 objections to the proposal, citing the impact on the valley’s ecology and character, as well as the fact that it would regularise existing illegalities on the site.
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