A group of environmental NGOs and residents have officially filed a planning appeal against the Central Link road upgrade project, arguing that its recent approval involved the “flagrant abuse of the planning system”.
In its appeal, the NGOs and residents warned that the project, which will connect the Mrieħel bypass with the foot of Saqqajja Hill, will involve the take-up of nearly 50,000 square metres of agricultural land, the uprooting of hundreds of trees and the demolition of vernacular buildings of heritage value.
They also requested the suspension of all works on site during the processing of their appeal.
The Central Link project, which is intended to alleviate traffic in one of Malta’s hotspots, was approved by the Planning Authority last July, with even the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) voting in favour of it. The approval proved controversial, sparking the establishment of a new environmental movement called ‘For Our Trees’, which organised a large protest on site. A group of NGOs also managed to crowdsource €20,000 within 24 hours to file an appeal against the project.
“Consultees gave their supposedly “expert opinion on outdated plans, the Environmental Impact Assessment is rife with inaccuracies, contradictions and misleading statements,” the NGOs said. “The Planning Board made its decision on the basis of documentation which is unseen and unpublished and objectors were dismissed so that this application could be railroaded for permission.”
“The applicant agency Infrastructure Malta has a track record of commencing works without the necessary permits, citing urgency or other constraints. This effectively circumvents all legal parameters and scrutiny and makes it close to impossible for objectors and appellants to obtain any form of remedy.”
“If buildings are already demolished and agricultural land excavated and trees uprooted, appeals can become expensive exercises in futility. The applicant agency should not be permitted to exercise untrammelled power unbound by the laws which regulate everybody else without a thought for principles of sustainability. This appeal was one for the health of residents, for sustainability, for the environment – but mostly one against the flagrant abuse of the planning system.”
The NGOs behind this appeal are Bicycle Advocacy Group, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Ramblers’ Association, Green House, Moviment Graffitti, ad Malta Youth in Agriculture Foundation. The residents are Alternattiva Demokratika secretary general Ralph Cassar, Malcolm Vella Haber, Edward Mallia, Stephen Pace, Cristino Antonio Scerri, Adrian Malli, and John Camilleri.