Zurrieq’s Garden of Eden seeks new permit for bungalows and private pools

Olive grove now proposed on site of illegal car park previously identified for bungalows

A wedding hall at Wied Babu in Zurrieq wants the green light to replace its current premises with eight bungalows for tourist accommodation, each with their own pool and terrace area, and a 12-bedroom guesthouse with common pool.

Baldacchino Holdings has presented plans to demolish the existing Garden of Eden complex, this time excluding large make-shift illegal car park that has been subject to an enforcement order issued 20 years ago. Its regularisation has now been withdrawn following strong opposition from Zurrieq residents.

Instead the developers have presented another application to plant an olive grove on the site of the car park. Although referred to the Planning Authority’s “direct action” unit, the illegality was never removed.

It was the Zurrieq local council which had demanded a written contract to restore the illegal car park to its natural state “after twenty years of environmental abuse and at the expense of the culprit”.

In a submission to the Planning Authority in May, Zurrieq mayor Rita Grima called for an assessment of the permits and conditions for the different components of the Garden of Eden complex, before taking a definitive stance on the development being proposed.

Objectors to the project, which include Moviment Graffitti, insist the current eyesore should not justify the development being proposed now. One of the objectors pointed out that plans include a new road for cars, which passes over his private land.

Existing development – the Eden Lodge, the Cottage Gardens and the Garden of Eden nightclub – cover a built-up footprint of over 1,600sq.m. The proposed bungalows will occupy exactly the same footprint but also an additional 790sq.m of private paved areas and 1,100sq.m of public paved areas.

The westernmost part of the site presently includes abandoned agricultural terraces and a derelict old farmhouse.

The permits for the wedding hall and disco predate the Planning Authority and the designation of Wied Babu as an Area of Ecological Importance and Special Area of Conservation.

The developers say the existing trees in the area will be retained and an additional 150 will be planted. Once operational, the project will result in a reduction in noise pollution from the complex’s current use as a wedding hall and disco.

They also claim that they have partnered with the University of Malta to integrate the development in a wider environmental management project to incorporate Wied Babu, most of which is also owned by the Baldacchino family.

The Environment and Resources Authority is still screening the application, which has been temporarily suspended by the developer. The applicants refer to the rural policy approved in 2014 to justify the development.