A large block of flats that would loom over one of Gozo’s most scenic valleys is set to be decided on Friday after the Planning Commission has thrice deferred the case for further information in the past ten months. The application has been opposed by well over a thousand objectors who wrote to the Planning Authority.
The five-level block of flats – probably the largest ever residential development in Nadur – sits on land belonging to a company that has gotten large tracts of land that used to belong to a medieval foundation set up to raise money for pious deeds.
Four individuals wrote to the Planning Authority to contest ownership over parts of the site, and for some time the application was held up by a judicial protest by four NGOs – Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Din L-Art Helwa, Moviment Graffitti, and Ghawdix – over whether the Planning Authority should even process the application in the first place.
The authority never replied to the NGOs’ judicial letter. Instead, the authority’s legal office maintained in internal consultations that the applicant’s submissions satisfied planning law, and “that ownership issues do not fall within the remit of the Planning Authority”.
The Planning Commission is now limiting its deliberations to planning policies.
The proposed development, consisting of 47 flats and 61 parking bays, is situated at the edge of the development zone in a quiet street that consists mainly of one and two-storey houses on the fringes of Nadur. Residents have been lamenting that the magnitude of the development makes it unsuitable for the location – the street is rather narrow, the quiet rural area would be radically transformed, the sewage system cannot cope.
The Planning Commission itself acknowledged these issues in the minutes of the meeting that took place last month. The Commission mentioned policies that say that new developments should seek to enrich “the quality of the context within which they are situated”, and “respecting both adjacent and opposite streetscapes, so as to maintain the character of the area.”
Another point in the minutes added: “The proposed height of the development is incompatible with the urban design and characteristics of the streetscape, and therefore runs counter to Urban Objective 3.6 of the SPED, which promotes a context driven approach for the control of building heights, and which aim to protect and enhance the character and amenity of distinct urban areas.”
The development is also opposed by the Nadur Local Council. The mayor, Edward Said, has twice reiterated a point about sewage overflow whenever it rains substantially. This is because the sewage system of the area does not cope with the current load – and the fear is that a development of such magnitude would exacerbate the overloading on the system.
The Planning Authority wrote to the Water Services Corporation a month ago enquire about the sewage overflow situation, but no answer has been received.
A video of the sewage overflow gushing out after rainfall – the sewage overflow ends up in San Blas Bay, one of Gozo’s most scenic sandy beaches – is being broadcast on JournalismPlus' Twitter channel.
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