Gozo road gobbling 11,000 sq.m of agricultural land approved

Widening of road from Marsalforn to Rabat, Gozo justified by 'some' episodes of congestion at the roundabout junction connecting Kapuccini Street with Republic Street

Kapuccini Street
Kapuccini Street

The Planning Authority board has approved the widening of the road linking Marsalforn to Rabat, Gozo by seven votes against three.

The project proposed by the Gozo Ministry is being justified as a way to decrease congestion in Rabat and to upgrade road safety standards, but will also require the expropriation of 10,693 sq.m of agricultural land along the road.

Environment and Resource Authority Chairman Victor Axiak, NGO representative Annick Bonello and Gilmour Camilleri voted against.

A number of Gozitans speaking during the meeting questioned the justification for the project arguing that congestion along the route is very rare.

This sentiment was also expressed by ERA chairman Victor Axiak who voted against the project.

Axiak compared the project with the Central Link Project for which had voted in favour, noting that this had been accompanied by studies showing improvement in air quality which were lacking in this case.

Around 3,557 sq.m of this land uptake will form part of a new bypass route linking Triq Gorg Pisani to Triq Patri Gacintu Camenzuli, creating a new bypass route, which will serve as the first segment of the proposed ring road around Rabat, Gozo.

The schemed road was already envisaged in the Gozo and Comino Local Plan.

Victoria mayor Josef Schembri, who voted in favour of the project, supported the development of this stretch of road saying that this will divert traffic from the centre of the town thus improving air quality in the town itself.

A Gozitan resident who addressed the meeting, expressed his fear that the development of the road will pave the way for building development in this area.

The road widening does not entail an increase in car lanes but is mostly limited to realignment of the road, a two-way segregated cycle lane, footpaths and public transport infrastructure.

But cyclists objecting to the project have warned that the proposed lanes are non-continuous and abruptly start and end in numerous areas.

ERA chairman Victor Axiak also questioned whether UK standards on the width of cycling lanes applies to local realities.

The proposal will entail the uprooting of around 305 trees and shrubs, most of which are planted along the roadside which include a number of mature trees protected for their age.

Out of these, 98 will be transplanted within the application site. 168 new indigenous species, with a minimum height of three metres will be grown as compensation.

The justification for the project is that “some” congestion occurs at the roundabout junction connecting Kapuccini Street with Republic Street which gives the right of way to incoming traffic from Republic Street.

“This causes some congestion in Kappuccini Street as a result of traffic congestion occurring along Republic Street and Fortunato Mizzi Street, especially during the peak hour and ferry hours,” the case officer report read.

In addition to this, the roundabout arm of Triq Kapuccini presently has a narrow carriage width that does not conform to UK standards that allows two lanes.

The PA’s own advisory committee on agricultural issues had objected to the project due to the take up of agricultural land.

The committee also proposed that if the project is approved, an area equivalent to the one taken up by the development, is planted with indigenous or local varieties of fruit trees such as olives, set at a maximum distance of 4m from each other.

The panel insisted that the site should consist disused land and not arable land and should be open to the public.

But the Gozo ministry replied that it could not commit to procuring additional land outside the site extents of the project to satisfy such requirements, with the case officer expressing agreement with this position.