The sudden demolition of a Ħaż-Żebbuġ garden had actually been planned for years but had been postponed, the mayor of the locality has taken to social media to explain.
After the excavation was roundly criticised by environmental activists and even led to a local councillor physically putting himself in the way of jiggers, mayor Malcolm Paul Galea pointed out that plans for the street widening in Triq il-Fraxxnu had been laid out for years.
“It seems the previous council knew of this and applied for it,” he explained. “However, for some reason this was postponed.”
There was widespread outrage after footage of jiggers digging into the garden’s soil went viral on social media today. However, Galea said he dropped everything and immediately headed to the garden when he heard about what was happening.
@lovinmaltaofficial“Vendikazzjoni.” An elderly Żebbuġ resident reacts to a public garden being demolished 🚧 #fyp #fypmalta #malta #zebbug #interview #lovinmalta♬ original sound – Lovin Malta
“Even though today I was really busy with other duties related to the council, I immediately when on site. I was trying to figure out what the facts were and discuss with authorities and that’s maybe why some people (conveniently) didn’t see me,” he said.
He noted that garden was government land, and that it had been announced in the government gazette.
“According to the plans, this street needs to be widened. Legally, this is government land, it’s not private and for that reason it can be widened. It seems a document had also been published in the government gazette about this.”
Tanti warned that this was not the only area set for some road-widening construction in the coming weeks.
“Unfortunately, there are many other streets in other towns that, according to this same warning, will undergo the same thing!” he said.
However, he made it clear the current council were not aware of the plans, and that there was no need for armed police to be on site if everything was above board.
“As a council, we were never consulted on this and because of that we couldn’t discuss it and really see the needs of residents,” he said. “Unfortunately, we are experiencing communication problems too often from various organisations and ministers.”
Infrastructure Malta also issues a statement on the development.
“The works include a slight widening of between 1 metre to 1.6 metres along a 40-metre stretch of the road, increasing the road space by approximately 50 square metres,” they said.
“Originally, residents and the local council had requested the street to be widened further, but Infrastructure Malta will be using half of the land allocated for this purpose only, to render it more accessible to residents whilst minimising the impact on the adjacent area, which some residents are using as a private garden,” they continued.
“The rest of the area can continue to be used as a garden. Infrastructure Malta will also be upgrading the existing footpaths along the other side of the street, before laying a new asphalt surface.”
“The widening of this street is taking place on government-owned land which is not leased to its current occupants for use as a private garden, since it has been earmarked for the full construction of the street in the past. Infrastructure Malta obtained the required road works permits for the ongoing works from the Transport Authority,” they ended.