Watchdogs shoot down Kalkara 10-villa project

Kalkara council, ERA and Superintendence for Cultural Heritage object to villa outside development zones

A villa complex of 10 dwellings set to replace scattered, roofless ruins over 19,000sq.m of garigue in Kalkara, would lead to the destruction of the rural character and habitats of the area, the Environment and Resources Authority has warned.

The environmental watchdog has expressed concern on the proposal by Duncan Deguara Attard, saying the complex outside development zones would be built inside a buffer zone for the protected Rinella valley.

The ERA said the project was an “excessive uptake of rural land” that would lead to the “destruction of the existing habitats and species” and lead to “adverse impacts on the rural character” of the area.

The ERA warned that approval would set a pretext for additional interventions, like extensions, infrastructural services, and the construction of swimming pools.

It warned against the “cumulative environmental impact caused by the numerous ad hoc proposals for residential dwellings currently being proposed on ODZ land” which in this particular case risk “opening up the remnant rural lands of this particular area to development pressures”.

The complex of 10 dwellings with extensive paved area is being proposed on 19,000sq.m of land outside development zones, in close vicinity to Smart City in Kalkara.

The villas are being proposed instead of a cluster of roofless, dilapidated buildings interspersed on land designated as a rural conservation area and an ecological buffer zone to the Rinella valley.

In a separate objection, the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage expressed grave concern at the “proposed intensification of development and formalisation of this cultural landscape” which is marked by the presence of significant military and historical structures.

These structures include a Grade 2-scheduled, British-period pillbox which risks being engulfed by the development if approved. The property is five metres away from the historic, Grade 2-scheduled Red House.

The SCH described the proposal as “totally objectionable in principle due to detrimental impact this would have on this culturally and ecologically significant environment as well as the values of the Grade 2 buildings”.

The Kalkara local council is also objecting to the development inside a rural conservation area and Area of Ecological Importance, where “no development should be allowed.”

Environmental NGO Nature Trust warned that approval would result in urban sprawl in the ODZ and reduce ground water infiltration.  “Such areas should be safeguarded at all costs as they serve as small refuges for biodiversity and an open green space”.

The application will be assessed according to the PA’s rural policy guidelines, which facilitate the redevelopment of countryside ruins into dwellings, if proof of past habitation is presented.  A review of the policy commenced more than a year ago is still ongoing.

According to the Kalkara council, the development cannot be approved according to the Rural Policy and Design Guidance 2014, since the proposed development has nothing to do with agricultural activities but is related to residential activities that are not justified.