The environmental watchdog, two local councils, NGOs and dozens of residents have opposed a proposal to transform a site previously intended for a 26-story hotel into a nine-story building of offices, shops and residences, located on the edge of the Wied Għomor Valley protected area, in St Julian’s.
Opponents say the site, although located in the development zone, is designated as open public space locally and should remain so.
The site is located just outside the regional road tunnels.
Landowner Carmelo Borg has submitted a “development control” request to change the site’s zoning and allow for mixed-use development.
It offers four floors of underground car parks and offices, shops and a residential development above.
One level would include sports and community facilities.
The land has been in the Borg family for generations and part of it was expropriated in the 1960s for the construction of the regional road.
Last year, Borg entered into a promise to sell agreement with TUM Invest Limited, which planned to build the hotel on several floors. The plans failed after a barrage of objections and the company changed its mind.
The 3000 square meter land is located in the development area. However, locally it is not designated for development but rather as an open public space.
St Julian’s mayor Albert Buttigieg said the project was “inappropriate”.
The local plan of 2006 specified precisely that the locality lacked open public spaces, at a time when “the situation was less chaotic and congested than today”.
“St Julian’s is suffocated, overdeveloped and crowded. It desperately needs open spaces – open green spaces – and not an excess of new commercial and residential development.
“There is a large supermarket and a shopping complex a few meters from the site. The rezoning will lead to an intensification of development and an increase in density, ”Buttigieg wrote in his objection.
The Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) said it had “reservations” and recommended that the site remain an open space. He said he would be able to make further comments if a more detailed environmental review was required.
The mayor of Swieqi, Noel Muscat, said the ecologically important valley must be protected at all costs “not only against inappropriate developments in the valley itself but also on its banks”.
“The sacrifice of land allocated to open public space, from which the general public will benefit, in favor of property for the enjoyment of a few, will set an unfortunate precedent which will lead to the further decimation of the open spaces available to the public. public. . It cannot be allowed, ”he added.
Environmental NGOs, including Din l-Art Ħelwa, argued that the loss of open spaces, the increase in development density and the introduction of conflicting activities through the mixed-use element “would have an impact. debilitating on the surroundings ”.
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