[WATCH] BirdLife Malta concerned about proposed development surrounding Simar Nature Reserve

BirdLife Malta has expressed serious concern at the possibility of the area surrounding its Simar Nature Reserve being subject to development, negatively impacting the habitats

BirdLife Malta explained that the area next to the reserve is characterised by two-storey houses which were allocated the possibility to increase to four floors in the North West local Plan of 2006
BirdLife Malta explained that the area next to the reserve is characterised by two-storey houses which were allocated the possibility to increase to four floors in the North West local Plan of 2006
Drone footage of Simar Nature Reserve

BirdLife Malta has expressed serious concern at the possibility of the area surrounding its Simar Nature Reserve in Xemxija being subject to building development which would have a negative impact on the habitats which make the reserve a protected bird sanctuary and a unique Natura 2000 site.

In a statement, BirdLife Malta explained that the area next to the reserve is characterised by two-storey houses which were allocated the possibility to increase to four floors in the North West local Plan of 2006. The eNGO said that to date, most of these developments have not materialised. “However, there is now a serious concern of the area being fully developed in the near future with a risk of the permitted building height to be higher than four floors. This may happen in relation to other developments in the area such as hotels which are allowed even higher floors according to specific policies for the site,” it said.

BirdLife Malta said that although this particular area is not targeted for high-rise development, their concerns arise from the apparent alignment between what is being proposed and other developments being permitted over the islands.

BirdLife Malta reminded the authorities that Simar Nature Reserve sits within a designated Natura 2000 site. “The northern border of the reserve is also the border of the Natura 2000 site which tapers around a development zone that incorporates Xemxija. Overall, the whole area gains from the designations of a Special Area of Conservation for its habitats and a Special Protection Area for its birds apart from being an area of ecological importance and a bird sanctuary,” it said.

The eNGO added that in 2014, what was then MEPA issued and approved a management plan for the Simar area which defines development as exerting pressure on the ecology of the site management.

“It is important that the nature reserve as well as the Natura 2000 site mantain a buffer area to the nature reserve. This would guarantee minimal impact on the priority habitats of the area, as well as maintain the necessary conditions that make the site a bird sanctuary,” BirdLife Malta said, adding that apart from the immediate impact of construction and use of heavy machinery on the potential of the reserve, other long term concerns from more intensive development of the surrounding area include noise and light pollution, and heavier traffic flow due to more residents in the area.

BirdLife Malta urged the Environment and Resources Authority and the Planning Authority to take an immediate position that this proposed development would not be allowed due to the sensitive nature of the Natura 2000 site of Simar. “BirdLife Malta insists that all Natura 2000 sites should be protected at all costs especially since Malta has the highest building density in the European Union.” 

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