Mriehel road works to take up 15,000sq.m of agricultural land

IM contends that 8,800sq.m are required for a pedestrian and cycling lane while 5657sq.m are required for the proposed separated junction with Triq in-Negozzju

Infrastructure Malta has revealed that the proposed flyover and other infrastructural works along the Mriehel bypass will require the take up of 15,000sq.m of agricultural land.

Of these 5657sq.m will be required  for the new flyover and the roundabout beneath at at the T-junction with In-Negozju Street.  A further the 8,800sqm of land are required for a new segregated lane for a pedestrian and cylcle lane.

This information was given in reply to questions by MaltaToday regarding a planning application presented by Infrastructure Malta in November whose details remain shrouded in secrecy as the details and plans are not publically accessible on the Planning Authority’s public information system.

A spokesperson for IM insisted that the project is still in the initial planning stage and that its aim is “to reduce collision risks at its junction with Mriehel and to introduce new facilities for more sustainable modes of travel”as already envisaged in the local plan and the the National Transport Master Plan.

The upgrade involves the construction of a flyover and an underlying roundabout at the junction between the Mriehel Bypass (Royal Malta Artillery Avenue) and In-Negozju Street, which is described as an “accident black spot that has been calling for improvement for many years”.

The Qormi council has called on Infrastructure Malta to close down a dangerous junction in the Mrieħel bypass, rather than build a flyover which in turn would take up agricultural land.

Moreover according to IM the upgrade will not widen the Bypass, which will remain with two lanes in each direction, as it is now.

The IM spokesperson denied that the project will take up 22,500sq.m (20 tomna) of additional land next to the Bypass.

“The proposed new flyover and the roundabout beneath it, to eliminate the accident black spot at the T-junction with In-Negozju Street, will require 5,657 square metres of land, 75% less than alleged by some individuals and organisations”

When contacted, Andre Callus from Moviment Graffitti clarified that the 22,500sq.m figure includes the total land take up for both the flyover and the extension of the by pass by 6 meters all along the route.  Moreover it also includes land which will be temporarily taken over during the road works as happened in the Central link project when adjacent land plots were also taken up on for the duration of the works. IM insists that even when the 8,800 sq.m is added the end result will  “still a far cry from the 22,500 square metres alleged by some objectors to this proposal”.

In fact according to the IM spokesperson the project also includes a 1.6-kilometre segregated lane for cyclists and pedestrians along the Mriehel Bypass, “which will be physically separated from the existing vehicle lanes by a long row of new trees”. This will be directly linked to the 4.3-kilometre segregated cycling and walking track of the Central Link Project, currently extending from Ta’ Qali to Mriehel, so that it can be used to safely reach Qormi as well.

“Thus, the Central Link Project’s cycling and walking track, the longest of its kind in Malta, will become even longer, reaching almost six kilometres”.

NGO Rota had shot down these plans and has pointed out that the original  proposals presented to cyclists in October did not mention any additional land take-up but had been proposed on the side of the industrial estate and residential area. It was only on November 16 that Rota was informed that the cycle lane will be removed from the inner side, and, against the NGO's advice, redesigned on the periphery next to the fields.

"Rota had informed IM that this proposal was unacceptable as it would become useless and unsafe for people travelling by bicycle,"

The plans also envisage the existing pedestrian overpass at the Mriehel Bypass will no longer be required if the T-junction with In-Negozju Street is transformed into a multi-level junction. The main eastbound and westbound traffic flows will be shifted to the flyover and the new roundabout beneath will include toucan crossings and footpaths at the junction’s lower level, at a point where vehicles would be travelling at lower speeds when approaching or leaving the roundabout.

“Whilst pedestrian bridges are a preferred solution in high speed roads, toucan crossings are a quicker and more comfortable option for cyclists and pedestrians in roads with traffic calming measures, such as the proposed roundabout”.

Infrastructure Malta has now confirmed that the development application process for this project was commenced in the second half of 2020.

“The project plans were submitted to the Planning Authority later in the same year, as Infrastructure Malta launched initial consultations with different stakeholders, including owners and tenants of lands that may be impacted by the project. Infrastructure Malta does not determine when the project plans presented to the Planning Authority are made publicly available. This decision is up to the Authority.  

Correspondence seen by MaltaToday clearly shows that farmers impacted by the proposed works only learned about the project after they received a notification informing them about the expropriation of their land.

But Infrastructure Malta insists that it is still open to changes proposed by stakeholders.

“Before a final decision on this proposed safety upgrade is taken, the updated plans including all modifications introduced as a result of the ongoing stakeholder consultations will be presented to the public for final submissions and consultations, as per applicable procedure for all new developments”.

READ ALSO: Planning application for Mrieħel flyover presented in November