Superintendence objects to supermarket in disused Marsaskala ODZ quarry

The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage is opposing the  development of a supermarket on a large parcel of ODZ land in Marsaskala

The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage is opposing the  development of a supermarket on a large parcel of ODZ land in  Marsaskala.

The heritage watchdog described the proposal as “an unacceptable commitment to extensive and intense development in an area that deserves to be further rehabilitated and re-integrated with the surrounding rural landscape”.

Plans submitted to the Planning Authority by Retail Marketing Limited, the company that owns the Wellbee’s supermarket chain, foresee the construction of a 1,520sq.m supermarket and a 520sq.m store at ground floor level within the disused quarry, a roof car park with 97 spaces and photovoltaic panels at roof level. The site is an ODZ area opposite the Marsaskala family park and 150m from a petrol station approved in 2018.

While acknowledging that the site was formerly used as a quarry ,the cultural heritage watchdog noted that the quarrying activity has ceased for a long time, and the site has been partly reclaimed by nature  in a way which has led to its reintegration in the rural landscape in the immediate vicinity.

The Superintendence contends that the existing residential development towards the rear of the site is restricted to the development zone and cannot be used to justify the encroachment of the proposed development on the undeveloped quarry area that borders “a predominantly rural and cultural landscape, composed of terraced fields, rubble walls and rural paths”.

Moreover, the Superintendence insists the disused quarries should be rehabilitated, contributing to the enhancement and improvement of the surrounding landscape.

But surprisingly, the Environment and Resources Authority has not yet shot down the development as it did on previous occasions.

In a memo issued last week the authority said it is still “reviewing this application” and “requires additional time to carry out a complete assessment”.

Back in 2017, ERA had objected to an application which envisaged commercial outlets, a drive-thru takeaway, a restaurant, and offices on the site of the quarry.

While acknowledging that the site of the disused quarry and its immediate surroundings do not appear to be environmentally sensitive, ERA insisted on the retention of the area as an open space and its possible restoration into agricultural use in a way that can “improve the overall environmental quality of this rural area”.

ERA had also expressed its concern that the development would result in further commercial development along the urban fringe.

More than 100 objections have been presented by residents in the past days.  Other objections have been filed by Moviment Graffitti and the Marsaskala Residents Network.

Environmental NGO Nature Trust is also objecting to the development noting the long disused former quarry  has been “naturalised”  to the extent that the rock has taken a natural hue with shrubs including capers growing along it.

The environmental NGO is also objecting to another commercial development on a neighbouring ODZ site.

Nature Trust wants the PA to screen and assess the two applications together because of their combined impact on the surroundings and the road infrastructure.

The second commercial development, encompassing a supermarket, retail outlets, restaurants, and a hotel, is proposed on a 7,212sq.m site outside development boundaries along Triq Sant Antnin in Marsaskala next to a petrol station approved in 2018. The site is 155 meters away from the supermarket proposed by Wellbees.