Road to rip through Naxxar’s beauty spot

A road proposed in a zoning application to pave the way for more future development risks ripping apart Naxxar’s cultural landscape

The latest plans show the proposed road layout passing just 5.4m away from the tower, and through the prickly pear trees and rubble walls which surround it
The latest plans show the proposed road layout passing just 5.4m away from the tower, and through the prickly pear trees and rubble walls which surround it

A road proposed in a zoning application to pave the way for more future development risks ripping apart Naxxar’s cultural landscape.

A proposal to develop a road to access “landlocked” plots off Triq Santa Marija in Naxxar – which are earmarked for future development – will pass through an area which includes an old pigeon loft tower, the high rubble wall of the Palazzo Parisio country estate, and a baroque-era farmhouse, all set in a pristine rural and vernacular landscape.

The latest plans show the proposed road layout passing just 5.4m away from the tower, and through the prickly pear trees and rubble walls which surround it.

The new road system, proposed by Brian Azzopardi, is being proposed to serve “potential residential development” on a 12,031sq.m site located north and east of the Trade Fair grounds and to the west by Triq Santa Marija.   

The area presently consists of abandoned agricultural fields enclosed within the development zone, which had been designated as a “white area” where development is not allowed in the Temporary Provision Schemes approved in 1988. Four different owners own the land.

The proposed road will link Triq Santa Marija to Triq il-Ġwiedja at the edge of the Trade Fair grounds and Sqaq Pezza.

The architect of the project, Ray Demicoli, is also designing a proposal for a 500-apartment and office complex to be built on the site of the former Trade Fair.    

The entry point for the proposed road will also pass through an old boundary wall of the Baroque era farmhouse along Triq Santa Marija. The lintel over the entrance door of the farmhouse contains an inscription indicating that it dates back to 1732.

The area is also known to host protected bat colonies, which forage over the entire area at dusk.

The proposed road will link Triq Santa Marija to Triq il-Ġwiedja at the edge of the Trade Fair grounds and Sqaq Pezza
The proposed road will link Triq Santa Marija to Triq il-Ġwiedja at the edge of the Trade Fair grounds and Sqaq Pezza

Environmentalist Alfred Baldachino has also documented the presence of the Maltese painted frog, robins that seek refuge in the area during their seasonal migration, and resident and migratory flocks of birds of various species such as the Common Starling.

The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage has not shot down the project entirely but recommended that the free space between the pigeon loft tower and the old rubble wall towards the east is transformed into a public square, ensuring free access for both the tower and the Palazzo Parisio wall.

The Superintendence also called for a buffer zone of at least 7m around the pigeon loft and from the historical wall. It insisted that any development allowed in the area should not impinge on the cultural heritage remains that may survive in this area.

Despite the obvious ecological impact of the proposed development, the Environment and Resources Authority has so far has not objected to the new road.

But the ERA has committed itself to “more detailed environmental screening” when future development applications are presented on the building plots. ERA called for photographic images of the site, to be in a better position to assess the impact of the proposed road.

The Naxxar local council had objected to the proposal, noting that this is in breach of the local plan which obliges the roads in the area to be integrated with the national road system in a “comprehensive plan”.

In fact, the zoning application seeks to introduce the new road in the absence of such a plan and has presented a detailed report by architect.

The council denounced the piecemeal approach to development of the land at il-Ġwiedja and the ex-Trade Fair site, each having its own road network. It also warned that if permitted, the proposed layout will significantly intensify traffic flow along Triq Santa Marija and within the urban conservation area.

But the local plan approved in 2006 paves the way for development in the green enclave, which was previously considered a white area where development cannot take place.

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