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FAA 'vehemently objects' to Għargħur farmland application for permit renewal

Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar said on Friday it is is “vehemently objecting” to a planning application in Għargħur for the “renewal of a permit on a vacant plot when there is no valid permit to be renewed, nor a vacant plot”.

Referring to application PA4897/23 Triq Kromb il-Baħar, Sqaq Charlotte, FAA insisted that the site is not, as the location description in the application implies, a vacant plot.

It said it formed part of agricultural land straddling an urban conservation area and outside development zone, “purposely left to deteriorate only in the last few years”. 

Applicant Joseph Bezzina, through his architect Joseph Attard, has applied to build four terraced houses with underlying garages.

The proposal, FAA said, will create huge unsightly blank party walls on the border with the Għargħur UCA which will be an eyesore for miles around, from the Salina Coastroad, up the “Telgħa t’Alla u Ommu” and overlooking the Victoria Lines, jeaopardising their status as a tentative UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

The development is also being opposed by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, the Environment and Resuroces Authority and the local council.

The SCH said the site – a large tract of agricultural land partly located within the urban conservation area and partly outside the development zone – extends downwards towards the valley overlooking the Grade 1 Victoria Lines.

The Victoria Lines are an area of ecological and scientific importance, and an area of very high landscape sensitivity.

These were completed in 1897 and have been placed on the Tentative List for inclusion as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“The Planning Authority is therefore urged to implement its policies to ensure the protection of the natural and cultural landscape. It is opinion of this office that the proposed development also runs counter to planning policies. In view of the above, the superintendence strongly objects to this development application,” the SCH wrote.

The Environment and Resources Authority wrote: “This is strongly objectionable from an environmental perspective as the land, which is located beyond the scheme boundary, forms part of a series of agricultural fields that border the urban conservation area of Għargħur and extend down into the valley on to Victoria Lines.”

The Għargħur local council is also objecting.

The agricultural fields in question have been threatened with development since 2008.

Despite being recommended for refusal, the Planning Commission granted a permit in 2015.

An application to renew the permit was submitted in 2020 but a third-party appeal against renewal was upheld by the Court of Appeal last February.

In his judgment, Chief Justice Mark Chetcuti said the application must be processed in accordance with all new planning policies and guidelines. The site has not been committed by any development and no commencement notice was ever submitted, he noted.