Tal-Balal could lose even more agricultural land if the Planning Authority approves a proposal to extend a car depot onto a large unbuilt field, and to regularise a similar extension already carried out illegally.
Alpine Rent-A-Car, off Triq Tal-Balal in Iklin, has applied to extend its car park area onto 3,500 square metres of what is referred to as a disused quarry, but which authorities say is agricultural, to hold 90 additional cars.
The application also aims to sanction an existing, illegal car park extension of another 2,000 square metres, also on to previously agricultural land, carried out without a permit at some point in the last five years.
In all, the application would mean the loss of some 5,500 square metres of agricultural land.
This in an area which is already set to lose another 9,000 square metres of land to the widening of Triq Tal-Balal, which controversially began last month before a development permit had been issued.
The Alpine Rent-A-Car application has been recommended for refusal by the PA, which is expected to take a final decision next month, and has drawn objections from the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) and the Iklin local council.
The ERA said the illegal works should not serve as a precedent for new development at the expense of agricultural land. The authority insisted that urban and commercial developments should be restricted to designated areas “to control the sprawl of urban development in ODZ and reduce the take-up of undeveloped land”.
The Iklin local council has also objected on the basis that the site is outside development zones, that the proposed use is urban in nature, and that the substantial size of the two extensions, existing and proposed.
The PA case officer concluded that the proposed car park use was not in line with any policy provision and that there was no evidence to support the developers’ claim that the land was a quarry.
The case officer said that should the Planning Commission overturn the recommendation and approve the project, a fine of €30,900 should be imposed over the illegal extension.
The developers, meanwhile, argue that, “It makes sense from both an environmental perspective and from a logistics point of view” to expand its current location rather than attempting to find an alternative site.
They have proposed a number of compensation measures including planting and maintaining around 60 citrus trees and substantial shrubs intended to disguise the proposed car park.
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