The Environment and Resources Authority and the Naxxar council have formally objected to the conversion of two disused rooms in the Birguma valley into a two-floor villa.

This is the owner’s third attempt to secure a permit after his previous applications filed in 2017 and 2018 were refused, the latter one on appeal too.

The applicant of PA 8000/19, Julian Azzopardi, wants to demolish the existing disused farm and instead construct a residential dwelling consisting of a ground and first floor building, excavate and construct a reservoir and install a timber gate which leads to the public road.

The existing structure on site consist of two standalone rural rooms covering a footprint of approximately 60 square metres and which are visible in the 1967 survey sheets.

The site in question was a registered livestock farm used for the rearing of animals, which stopped operating in May 2003.

Located in Wied Anġlu, the valley running through Birguma and Għargħur, the site is predominantly characterised by agricultural fields.

ERA said: “Noting the sensitivity of the site and its location, the proposed development would result in an adverse impact on the valley system of Wied Anġlu, the rural character of the area and other important topographical features.”

Of significant concern from an environmental point of view

ERA said the proposed development is “of significant concern” from an environmental point of view given that it would result in the replacement of this existing traditional rural structure with a new modern building with a resulting negative impact on the character and environmental quality of the immediate rural scenery.

The new structure will not be visually appropriate within the local and site context since it will stand out and pose “a deleterious effect” on the surrounding environment.

Moreover, the development would lead to land parcelling and fragmentation of land, also contributing to significant take-up of extensive tract of undeveloped rural land within the countryside as well as other environmental issues associated with the introduction of light and miscellaneous disturbance on site and in the surrounding area.

It said the proposed development does not respect the size, proportions and the character of the original building as it was seeking to increase the built-up floor area by three times the area of the existing structure.

The development, it said, was not in line with a policy on the redevelopment of existing buildings in ODZ which does not allow it to extend more than the built-up area of the present structures.

This argument was also used by the Naxxar council and several other objections. 

It said the site is relatively unspoilt and there is no justification for the replacement of the existing structure with urban type development in a rural area.

ERA also expressed concern that once the proposed development is established, it could give rise to requests for further development such as requests for parking provisions and a swimming pool. It noted that the present plans made no provision for on-site parking. The 2017 application had included a four-car basement garage but this does not feature in the latest plans.

As it called on the Planning Authority to refuse the permit application, ERA held that the proposal and any intervention on the site was “unacceptable in principle” and would create a precedent for further built-up structures within the sensitive area.

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