A new road proposed on ODZ land in Għarb that includes residential development is being led by one of Joseph Portelli’s employees.
Residents of Għarb are up in arms over the proposed development of a new road and change of zoning to residential development, set to take up 5,387 sqm of ODZ land.
The proposed development, filed by applicant Justin Caruana, looks to provide several residential units for members and other relatives of the Caruana family.
If approved, the project will open up a goldmine of new development opportunities for the family, who own the land in the area. According to the proposal, a large chunk of land is currently earmarked for development.
An ownership map submitted to the Planning Authority shows how the land in question is split up between a number of different applicants, which are all residents of Għarb and relatives of the Caruana family.
Justin Caruana, who is leading the project as the main applicant, is an employee of Joseph Portelli, the construction magnate who has courted his fair share of controversy for his own developments in Gozo.
The Environment Resources Authority has described the project as “objectionable from an environmental point of view,” and made it clear that “there is no justification for a change of zoning to residential development, which would result in additional land take-up ODZ”.
However, sources have suggested that the project has the backing of the local council, with many residents fearing that Mayor David Apap Agius, has a friendly relationship with the Caruana family.
Apap Agius has refused to answer questions over the local council’s position sent almost three weeks ago, insisting that he was busy with a recent kite festival.
Asked for a comment on his friendship with Justin Caruana, Apap Agius said that he was the “Mayor for all”.
Issues surrounding the proposal have been made clear by residents of Għarb and pressure group Moviment Graffitti, who say that the application violates many different policies.
For starters, a planning control application to rezone ODZ is prohibited by law, and the proposal is not at all conducive to sustainable development, nor does it adhere to the Rural Policy and Design Guidelines (2014).
The application also does not adhere to the rural, thematic, urban, or sequential approach that the Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development (SPED) advocates.
If this project is approved, it will have major ramifications not just for Gozo, but also for Malta, as it will set a precedent for rezoning of agricultural land for residential development.
The residents concerned will be meeting again tomorrow, while the local council’s vote on the project will be taken next Tuesday.
So far, more than 600 representations have been sent in objecting to this proposal. If you are interested in sending in your representation, you can do so by following this link.
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