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Proposed Snail Farms On ODZ Land Are A Loophole To Get Around Malta’s Rural Policy, Architect And Expert Warn

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An application for a snail farm on ODZ and agricultural land in Burmarrad has been flagged as a loophole for applicants to get away with building structures on arable land.

Lovin Malta spoke with Malcolm Borg, the man in charge of the Centre Agriculture, Aquatics & Animal Sciences at MCAST and head of the farmers association Għaqda Bdiewa Attivi, and an architect who recently filed a representation against the snail farm in Burmarrad.

“This is definitely a reason for concern,” said Malcolm Borg. 

“Because it is not covered by the current rural policy, applicants are hoping they can get away with applying for any structure since there are no guidelines stipulating what should constitute a snail farm,” Borg told Lovin Malta.

In a recommendation letter, the architect outlined that the proposed development does not require that it is built on agricultural land, but the contrary if anything.

Designed by Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne’s daughter, Dawn Fearne, for applicant Jason Borg – the project plans to transform a large piece of ODZ land in Burmarrad into a snail farm with six pens, a kitchenette, changing rooms, and other services. The plans will also sub-divide the fields, and will also include the alteration of rubble walls.

“All of the snail farm operations is located behind closed doors. Document 1e outlines internal uses of the bathroom, kitchenette, office, personnel sensitisation and cleansing area, sorting area and packaging area among others. None of these have any connection to the ODZ nature of the site,” one representation read.

“I would be quite shocked if this were to be approved,” the architect told Lovin Malta.

Borg also gave a similar argument, saying that unless it is necessary for the growth of the snails for agricultural land to be used for crops to feed them, then an alternative should be found. 

“If applicants want to develop an indoor snail farm, they don’t need arable land to do so and hence can easily utilize a warehouse in an urban or industrial area,” Borg said.

The application plans show that it will all be done within a closed space, with all the facilities found behind closed doors.

The architect also emphasised that there’s absolutely no reason for the farm to be buit on ODZ land, and place more stress on ODZ. 

The Rural Policy and Design Guidance (RPDG) does not address the construction of snail farms, hence there is no guidance or direction as to how and such farms can be approved.

Since the RPDG does not cover snail farms, such applications can create a loophole were rural development not related to agriculture purposes is permitted.

Furthermore, following the Agricultural Advisory Committee meeting, it was suggested that this activity could easily be done within an industrial zone.

The Environment and Planning Ministry did not reply to questions over the issue.

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When Sasha (formerly known as Sasha Tas-Sigar) is not busy writing about environmental injustice, she's either shooting film or out at sea. She's passionate about society and the culture that made her. Follow her at @saaxhaa on Instagram, and send her anything related to the environment, art, and women's rights at [email protected]

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