Żonqor apartments will drastically alter Marsaskala skyline

In 2019 case officer had claimed development would have ‘minimum impact’ on long distance views before PA approved zoning application establishing height of development proposed in latest application

Photomontage showing view from Triq il-Blajjiet with proposed project circled in yellow
Photomontage showing view from Triq il-Blajjiet with proposed project circled in yellow

The development of 119 flats on a site at Zonqor included in development boundaries in the infamous rationalisation carried out in 2006 will “drastically alter the Marsaskala skyline,” according to the Planning Authority’s own advisory panel on design issues.

The Design Advisory Committee (DAC) chaired by academic and architect Dr. David Mallia, reached this conclusion after assessing photomontages and plans submitted by GAP Projects which is proposing the development.

To lessen the visual impact, the DAC has called on the developers to “revisit the proposal” by reducing its height.

The parameters for the new development were already approved in a zoning application approved in December 2018 and granted ministerial endorsement in January 2021.

The zoning application covered a larger area (8,000sq.m) than that contemplated in the current application (5,000s.qm).

This means that the visual impact is set to increase further if and when an application is submitted on the remaining area on which the PA has already approved a building height of five floors.

Development on land on rationalisation sites like the one in Zonqor is not automatic and requires the prior approval of a Planning Control application setting building heights and road alignments.

A recent court sentence which confirmed the legality of the rationalisation process carried out in 2006, also concluded that releasing a zone for development does not automatically imply any request for development on it would necessarily be approved, especially when the area involved is agricultural land and archaeological sites.

In fact such a zoning application covering the entire 8,000 sq.m site was presented by developer Charles Camilleri on behalf of various owners, in 2018.

But while the DAC is now objecting to the height of the project proposed by GAP, in 2019 a case officer report for the zoning application had concluded that “the impact of 17.5m-developments within the site subject of this application, would have minimum impact on long distance views when viewed from Triq il-Blajjiet and Zonqor Point.”

This was attributed to the fact that rock-cutting on the site would have lowered road levels by 6m. But this claim is now contradicted by photomonatages which clearly show a marked impact on long distance views from Triq il-Blajjiet and Triq is-Salini.

No photomontages were requested in the zoning application which now ties the hands of PA boards assessing the full development application.

The zoning application was approved despite 53 objections by residents concerned by the uprooting of carob trees, the increase of traffic in the area, overshadowing, excessive height and flooding and storm water issues.

The full development application is still being assessed by the Planning Authority and has already attracted more than 50 objections, mostly lamenting the loss of trees and fauna and expressing concerns on traffic and flooding.

The Marsaskala local council is also calling for an Environment Impact Assessment and Traffic Impact Studies and has described the claim made in the application that there are no trees and rubble walls on the site as false.

It also noted that since the development is in the immediate vicinity of another plot of land – which was also included in the rationalisation carried out in 2006 – and called for a culvert system which is wide enough to cater for both developments.

It was only on Monday following repeated requests by MaltaToday that the photomontages of the project presented more than a month ago were published on the PA’s public information system.

A PA spokesperson explained that it could only publish the document after a “GDPR compliant copy of the same document” was uploaded.