Zabbar fields under threat of Infrastructure Malta roadworks

Roadworks are protruding into fields outside the development zones in Ħaż-Żabbar, in an ongoing project Infrastructure Malta claims will divert traffic from the town centre

Roadworks are protruding into fields outside the development zones in Ħaż-Żabbar, in an ongoing project Infrastructure Malta claims will divert traffic from the town centre.

But the works are resulting in the take-up of agricultural land along Triq Alessio Erardi and Triq Bieb is-Sultan, with residents complaining about the complete lack of consultation and the absence of any planning permits for the works.

The roadworks along a 500m stretch of roads, starting from Triq il-Bahrija through Triq Alessio Erardi and Triq Bieb is-Sultan in the direction of the Notre Dame Gate, protrude on the most scenic parts of the locality.

“We are very concerned because nobody was consulted, no permits were ever attached, and all of a sudden we woke up to see engines demolishing the fields. What was once a quiet area is being turned in to a two-way road,” a group of residents told MaltaToday.

Residents are concerned these roadworks will not only take up agricultural land but will increase pressures for ODZ development along the road being widened. Only a few weeks ago, the PA approved the redevelopment of a countryside ruin into a villa with swimming pool, along Triq is-Saħħara – on the other side of the road earmarked for widening.

IM has confirmed with MaltaToday that it is still discussing compensation with field owners, despite the commencement of the works. It is also insisting that no permit is required because the road was already schemed in the local plans. “In line with applicable legislation, no planning permits are required for roads already schemed in the Local Plan.”

A legal notice exempts government agencies from applying for permits for “roads and pavements within a planning scheme.”

But residents in Triq Alessio Erardi are incensed by IM’s insistence to carry out the works without a planning permit, lamenting that they had no opportunity of voicing their concerns. “It is irrational to conduct works addressing present-day realities, based on decisions taken decades ago. In fact consultation on local plans took place in 2005,” one resident told MaltaToday.

IM says that while the roadworks protrude outside the development zone, it necessitates the take-up of strips of land next to the existing streets, which had been earmarked for the construction of the same streets for decades. No other widening will take place, IM told MaltaToday.

IM also claims the soil excavated during these works will be used to improve conditions of adjacent fields, in agreement with the farmers who till them, “or else reserved for Infrastructure Malta’s upcoming afforestation projects”.

IM’s justification is that while providing increased connectivity to residents, the road-widening project will alleviate circulation difficulties in the centre of Żabbar, providing an alternative route to Sta Duminka Street, a very narrow street that serves as one of the few exits from this locality. According to IM parts of Triq Bieb is-Sultan Street, and Triq Alessio Erardi Street do not even have footpaths.

But residents are taken aback by the suggestion that, to divert a problem in part of the locality, another one is being created next to their own homes. “It does not make sense to reduce traffic in one part of the town only to increase it in another part and at the cost of sacrificing more agricultural land.”

According to IM the works along Alessio Erardi street are part of a wider project in the locality which will include new underground networks, new street lightings, new footpaths, stronger carriageway foundations and new asphalt surfaces.