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Another ODZ Application: Għarb Residents Object Five-Storey Old People’s Home

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Residents of Għarb have vehemently opposed a planning application that seeks to build a five-storey old people’s home on ODZ land which is “actively farmed”.

“Għarb residents are strongly opposing this exploitation of Għarb’s environment. The fields are actively farmed and local families will suffer. The scale of the proposed building and its use is completely inappropriate in this old quarter of the village with its beautiful narrow streets. We are asking all Gozitans to unite against overdevelopment and exploitation,” said David Pace, a resident of the Gozitan town.

The application (PA02994/24), which is currently awaiting recommendation, has been strongly opposed by the village council, and there have been over 500 objections lodged to the Planning Authority already, a statement penned by the concerned residents reads.

Residents are appealing to the Minister for Gozo and Planning Clint Camilleri to help them prevent the building of the home which is intended to include 68 rooms, 29 car spaces, chapel and mortuary, clinic, office, dining area and gym.

The proposed site is situated on Triq l-Isqof Mikiel Molina and Triq il-Blata – in the application put forth by Emanuel Joseph Farrugia and supported by architect Alexander Bigeni, the plot is described as vacant but the residents maintain that it’s actively farmed.

The site is clearly marked as an Outside Development Zone.

Għarb homes around 600 households, and residents are concerned that an old people’s home for 138 elderly citizens could increase the population by well over 10% and stretch the infrastructure beyond capacity.

Residents explained the only route to the proposed building’s entrance is a narrow one-way street behind the village church, so increased traffic will be an issue: this road is already regularly blocked by trucks.

Other locals are worried about the parking: the proposed building has only 29 parking spaces for as many as 136 residents, visitors and 24-hour staff. Parking is already a huge problem in this part of the village.

The Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) also objected, saying that “the proposal would result in take-up of open rural land for the purpose of introduction of an urban-type land use on a site which is characterised by arable fields”.

“In view of the site topography, it is also envisaged that the proposal and its consequent urban sprawl would result in adverse impact on the rural landscape.”

This is what the Gozitans and the Maltese have to say:

“As Camilleri is duty-bound to protect the environment and architectural heritage of the island, as well as its people, surely he will oppose this planning application,” says local home-owner Kevin Valenzia.

“There should be no building on ODZ land when there are lots of other more suitable places where a building of this magnitude could be constructed. We hope that everyone who hears of this proposal to spoil the landscape and skyline will make an objection to the Malta Planning Authority. It literally takes a minute and you really will be helping say no to overdevelopment across Malta. Enough is enough.”

“The height is completely inappropriate for an old village setting like this,” says villager Bob Cardona.

“The five-storey blank party walls will tower over everything – and will wall in people who live here so that they lose all the natural light in their homes. The architect and developers have paid no heed whatsoever to local people.”

There have also been objections because the rear of the proposed building is directly across the valley Ta’ Pinu, spoiling the rural view from the basilica for locals and tourists alike.

“It will degrade the beauty of Ta’ Pinu and Għolja tal-Għammar pilgrimage walk,” says Father Patrick Pullicino, another “unhappy resident of Għarb”.

Residents in the neighbouring village are frustrated too: all the heavy construction vehicles leaving the site would have to either pass Ta’ Pinu where the road is “often very congested, endangering worshippers and tourists” or through the centre of the “beautiful village of Għasri”.

The plans themselves suggest the proposed development shows little care for those it might accommodate: of 68 rooms, 24 will have no external windows, the residents wrote.

They will be lit only via a small window onto an internal shaft. “We all know that these rooms will be dark even on the brightest day,” says Lucy Mercieca, who lives adjacent to the proposed building.

“Who would wish their mother or father to be in a cell like that when they are ill or bedbound? There is virtually no external space other than a small terrace. The developers are likely to extend further into ODZ for gardens, and probably a pool.”

Other elements of the design have raised suspicions that the building will not remain an old people’s home.

“Gozo already has a number of old people’s homes including one just 1.5km away, and more are already being built,” she continues. “Everyone thinks the developers are only planning an Old People’s Home to get a development on ODZ land. The plans show that the clinic is the size of two large toilet cubicles while the gym is six or eight times larger. Probably the building will actually be used as a hotel or holiday lets,” a resident speculated.

It’s also thought that there are errors in the application itself:

“We’re concerned that there appear to be a number of anomalies in the architectural submissions to the planning authority. It would be a travesty if a giant project like this was approved because the plans omitted key information or included significant errors in the projected elevations of the building. The image of the rear, for example, appears to be flipped left-to-right, downplaying the true effect of the building on neighbouring properties. Also the proposed building stretches considerably beyond 30 metres from the line of the public highway,” Esther Lafferty said.

Meanwhile, some objections show dwindling trust in the system.
“Failure to follow the planning laws here will simply show that the ODZ and other planning laws mean nothing,” an objection reads.

“Għarb is one of most remote villages in Malta and is rich with the vernacular characteristics of traditional village life. If developers are allowed to build in this fashion and ruin our architectural heritage on this furthest edge of the islands, what hope do any of us have? Nowhere is safe,” local actor Alan Montanaro said.

If you want to object this development, click here.

What are your thoughts on planning applications on ODZ land?

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Ana is a university graduate who loves a heated debate, she’s very passionate about humanitarian issues and justice. In her free time you’ll probably catch her binge watching way too many TV shows or thinking about her next meal.

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