Assault on Swatar’s green lung: developers request five-storey zone

70% of site to be developed with remainder allocated to open spaces, roads and landscaping

The Msida council is insisting that green spaces take the form of “communal outdoor space”, referring to some 27,000sq.m which the developers proposed for green spaces
The Msida council is insisting that green spaces take the form of “communal outdoor space”, referring to some 27,000sq.m which the developers proposed for green spaces

The building heights for a proposed, major development on Swatar’s agricultural land have been reduced to five floors, from seven, in line with the height limits set by the local plan for neighbouring residential areas.

But development will still rise to 22m and occupy 70% of the present site, which presently consists mostly of agricultural land, some rural buildings, a cow farm, as well as a part of a school.

The area is a green lung in the heavily congested area, which means its development would eliminate one of the few rural enclaves separating Swatar from Msida.

The various owners of the site wanted a seven-floor allowance in their request to rezone the area for both commercial and residential use in 2018.

The Msida local council, which had objected to the proposal, protested that this would have resulted in a nine-storey development when penthouse and ground floor are taken in to account.

The landowners include S.C. & Co Limited, PD Finance, Paul Vella’s P&S Ltd, Anton Camilleri’s Camcas Ltd, Malta Developers Association president Sandro Chetcuti, entrepreneur James Barbara and several other individual owners. The Lands Authority owns part of the site.

The enormous 123,000 sq.m site is one of the largest areas added to the development zones in 2006 and is bounded by Triq Dun Karm bypass, Triq is-Swatar, Triq Indri Grima and Triq Mons Innocenz Zammit. Apart from extensive agricultural fields, the area also includes a number of old farmhouses, rubble walls and some dwellings.

The local plan stipulates that the Planning Authority should prepare a development brief for the area before private development even considered. But in 2019 a spokesperson for the PA had told MaltaToday that it has no intention of issuing such a zoning plan for public consultation, and that it will instead consider the zoning application presented by the owners of the site.

The local plan states that the development brief should consider “low traffic-generating” employment uses in the area with “preference given to ancillary uses and related to the existing Mater Dei Hospital and the University”, and a limited amount of student housing, and expanding the existing private school.

The landowners want to develop a commercial zone along the bypass which includes a disused old quarry. The mixed-use zone, of which 70% will be residential, currently includes cultivated land and a cow farm as well as residential development near St Martin’s College. Plans also foresee the redevelopment of the school itself, which will also include students’ accommodation facilities. Tourism and leisure development is being proposed in all zones except the school zone.

The Msida council had objected to the heights proposed in the original plans, questioning the compatibility of tall buildings with surrounding three- and four-storey buildings, apart from the fact that the proposed developments would be higher than Mater Dei Hospital and the University of Malta across the road.

The council also insisted that green spaces take the form of “communal outdoor space”, referring to some 22% of the site (27,000sq.m) which the developers proposed for green spaces.

But as mapped out even in the latest plans, the designated green spaces are “elongated in shape and form, implying that most of this area will simply consist of front gardens.”

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