Tal-Barrani braced for massive shopping mall

16,000sq.m mall to replace Ħal Għaxaq scrapyard and adjacent field

One of Malta’s largest shopping malls could take up the area of over two football pitches at 16,000sq.m on an undeveloped field in Għaxaq and an adjacent scrapyard.

The site is owned by Joe Cassar’s Trihills Heavy Industry Ltd, and is in the process of being acquired by Alex Zammit’s Southpark Ltd.

The Planning Authority is currently processing another application for an even larger retail hub, on a 35,000sq.m industrial site owned by Schembri Barbros Ltd, which presently includes a Lidl supermarket just 300m way from the Trihills scrapyard.

The latter application comes with a long history of sanctioned illegalities, and is currently suspended.

The Għaxaq application was submitted by Southpark director Jurgen Sammut.

The application seeks new zoning parameters for large-scale commercial development along the Tal-Barrani Road.

The site is currently designated as an ‘area of containment’ where development is normally limited to industrial and commercial uses that cannot be located in urban areas. 4,500sq.m of the site is however also undeveloped. The scrapyard has been operational since the 1980s

The proposed development comes with a two-storey underground car park, and ground and first floor level for commercial outlets and outside catering areas.

Originally in 1997, the PA had issued an enforcement order against illegalities on the scrapyard. In 2017, the PA approved a request filed in 2006 to regularise the site and build a three-storey administration block, after the yard was designated as ELV Treatment Facility. In 2019, it approved a 2,500sq.m extension and a garage for heavy vehicles. The Għaxaq council objected, calling the scrapyard a highly-visible eyesore.

The developers now claim redevelopment into a commercial area will reduce the negative environmental and visual impacts of the yard, to the benefit of consumers in the south of Malta making use of larger and specialised retail shops.

The developers say the land does not qualify for agricultural land classification, and that it can sustain any traffic generated due to its siting along a main arterial road. With around 4,000sq.m in roof space, there is large potential for solar energy harvesting.

The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage has already warned the site may yield archaeological finds due to a nearby cluster of recorded tombs at Tal-Ħotba to the north of the site. Both the Superintendence and the PA’s Design Advisory Committee (DAC) expressed reservations on the impact on the surrounding landscape.