Concerns for the fate of Wied Għomor have been raised again after a new series of applications including a seven-storey apartment block overlooking the protected valley were submitted.
St Julian’s deputy mayor Albert Buttigieg sounded the alarm over four applications in Triq Wied Għomor submitted in a matter of weeks, questioning whether the area was being “turned into a slum”.
Two of the applications, all by different architects and applicants, concern only internal changes to existing buildings, but the other two include the proposed apartment complex and the sanctioning of a residence illegally built outside development zones.
The seven-storey apartment block, replacing an existing villa on the very edge of the development zone and extending beyond, already drew objections from the Swieqi local council and the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA).
The council said the building would be just two metres from the valley’s designated border and would create “a sheer wall of building about 20 metres high, plus two further recessed floors which would bring the total height to circa 26 metres, dominating the protected and precious valley”.
The ERA said a pool and surrounding hard surfacing proposed as part of the development would extend into an ODZ area and result in further loss of undeveloped land.
“In addition, there are significant concerns with regard to the setting of an undesirable precedent for similar future development which cumulatively would lead to the significant overall change in the appearance of the surroundings and wider site context,” the authority added.
Meanwhile, the second application would see the sanctioning of an illegal residence built instead of a garage in an ODZ area close by. The application also seeks permission to turn a disused basement into a habitable room as part of the residence.
Both applications have yet to be assessed by the Planning Authority.
They follow the approval by the PA in April of a five-storey guesthouse overlooking the valley, instead of a previously-approved permit for a villa and pool. Before approval, the site consisted only of a dilapidated building, abutting a garage and two-storey building.
Objectors, including the ERA and local councils, argued the proposal would set a precedent for similar development on existing vacant plots within this area.
Wied Għomor, a scheduled area of ecological and scientific importance, has for years been the subject of a struggle between developers and environmentalists, as well as the local councils of neighbouring Swieqi, San Ġwann and St Julian’s.
A proposal for a 133-room retirement home in the valley, rejected by an appeals tribunal in March but now the subject of a court appeal, is the most significant of various development proposals the PA has been asked to adjudge.
Environment Minister José Herrera announced last year that he had proposed the valley for protection under the Public Domain Act, although the proposal has not yet come under consideration.
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