Quarry development a threat to aquifer – Nature Trust

Nature Trust noted that since the valley is composed of the highly permeable lower coralline limestone, avoiding the introduction of new buildings is vital for the replenishment of the aquifer

Nature Trust is warning that any building in Wied Ghomor will impede the replenishment of the mean sea level aquifer and is calling for the reinstatement to its natural state of a quarry now earmarked for an old people’s home.

Nature Trust noted that since the valley is composed of the highly permeable lower coralline limestone, avoiding the introduction of new buildings is vital for the replenishment of the aquifer. 

Environmental NGOs Din l-Art Helwa and Nature Trust are objecting to the development proposed in the Wied Ghomor quarry which is being recommended for approval by the Planning Directory.

The site is being earmarked for a 248 bed old people’s home (115 rooms with two beds and 18 rooms with one bed) which will include an extensive restaurant and gym area.  Din l-Art Helwa noted that the latter two developments are not described as being exclusive to the facility.

Din l-Art Helwa also noted that the proposed development does not blend in the landscape but will effectively result in a five storey structure, with a two floor building rising up above existing quarry levels.  “Instead of proposing two floors from the lowest site level as proposed in the local plan, the application proposes two floors from the highest site level”.  

Din l-Art Helwa is also objecting to the application because it goes counter to the Social Facilities and Community topic paper which recommends that old people’s homes are located in village centres. Din l-Art Helwa also noted that the proposal occupies 8% of the site and not 5% as originally agreed by MEPA.

In plans submitted to the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, the area is being eyed for the construction of a 133-room old people’s home, the dimensions of which would occupy 8% of the quarry but rise two storeys above the hole. 

The rest of the site would be rehabilitated as a public garden and belvedere.   

In 2011 the MEPA board had concluded that any development on the site should not occupy more than 5% of the quarry. The local plan stipulates that any new building is to “occupy a minimal part of the site”.  

The developers are arguing that the extent of the developable floor space is “extremely important for the viability of the rehabilitation of the valley”.

They say they want to provide a “high quality retirement complex” catering for dependent and independent individuals, as well as all necessary ancillary facilities required in a retirement complex such as a gym, restaurant, a hall and a parking area. 

Originally the development also included covering a large part of the site with solar panels. But this aspect of the project was dropped due to the impact on the site topography. 

MEPA has already asked the applicants’ architect to reconsider the intended land-use in view of its Social Facilities and Community Care Topic Paper, which proposed that old people’s homes be located close to or within a town or village centre.  

The Planning Directorate is recommending the approval of the development. 

A decision on a preliminary permit for the development was earmarked for 4 February but was postponed after an article on this project appeared in MaltaToday and residents started to object.  A full permit will be approved at a later stage. 

Among the issues left pending is how the site will be linked to the road network.  

The quarry is at present subject to an enforcement order against illegal dumping, which is still pending.

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