FAA lambasts PA process on Balzan mega development, claims conflict of interest

The Environmental NGO says that the project is jeapordising the residents' health, quality of life and the village character

A complex of shops, and 90 apartments and garages have been proposed on the Dolphin Centre site in Balzan (Photo: FAA)
A complex of shops, and 90 apartments and garages have been proposed on the Dolphin Centre site in Balzan (Photo: FAA)

Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar (FAA) lambasted the Planning Authority board over a Balzan mega development, claiming that conflicts of interest and powerful interests were jeopordising the residents' health, quality of life and the village character.

The environmental NGO declared its support for Balzan residents campaigning against the proposal of a development including a complex of shops, and 90 apartments and garages on the Dolphin Centre site.

In a statement it explained that during the Planning Authority hearing, the engineers’ report was incomprehensive, failing to provide for the “long-standing issue” of stormwater flooding in the area.

FAA said that there was no mention of screening of services at roof level, no indication of the provision of air conditioning requirements for commercial premises, and neither studies on the noise this would generate.

“FAA welcomes the fact that the Commission was taking on board the objectors’ points about the proper provision of transition heights, particularly setbacks abutting on the villa zone, and issues of privacy since the proposed block will include windows looking directly into surrounding private gardens and back windows,” FAA said.

It added that the Commission note that the development exceeded the maximum legal limit of 30metres depth of development from the street.

FAA said the Commission also agreed with the residents on the lack of loading and unloading facilities for the over 2,000sq.m commercial area which it said would lead to trucks unloading on the street, further disrupting traffic on roads.

“FAA maintains that the Traffic Study is fundamentally flawed since traffic counts were taken during the mid-August shutdown when traffic is at its lowest rate.”

The NGO said that along with the residents, it protested ERA’s conclusion that the project did not require an Environment Impact Assessment.

According to FAA, a doctor who was present for the meeting “deplored” the lack of medical studies on how the increase in traffic and building congestion would be affecting the residents’ health.

It said that just as the Planning Authority Commission Chairperson started indicating the futher studies needed, the developer interjected, suddenly calling a stop to proceedings.

“Since this block is known to be a Joseph Portelli project, this highly irregular, arbitrary suspension before the decision is taken has far-reaching implications for the outcome of the case,” FAA said.

It pointed out as well that when discussing the possible monitoring for abuse by the Building and Construction Authority, Joseph Portelli’s architect, Perit Marisa Schembri Grima, never declared that she was the Chairman of this Authority.

This is a major conflict of interest, as it is highly unlikely that the BCA would penalise its own Chairman’s project,” Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar coordinator Astrid Vella said.

“In spite of the PA Board’s balanced approach to this project, the hearing showed that the planning process remains a circus plagued by irregularities, conflict of interest and powerful players overriding residents’ quality of life, which should be the PA’s first priority,” FAA concluded.