Watchdogs are saying no to developers’ massive soil clearance at Targa Gap

Why are developers trying to remove the soil over 2,800 square metres of ODZ land at Tal-Wej in San Pawl tat-Targa?

The area at Tal-Wej, in San Pawl tat-Targa
The area at Tal-Wej, in San Pawl tat-Targa

Malta’s watchdogs for the environment and cultural heritage are saying no to an “archeological investigation” by the owners of a plot of land outside building zones, at San Pawl tat-Targa.

The developers want to remove the topsoil on a 2800 square metre plot in the protected area, under the pretext of an archeological investigation. But they have not stated their intentions for ODZ site known as Tal-Wej, Triq is-Seneskalk and in the vicinity of another plot added to the development zone in 2006.

The Environment and Resources Authority and the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage have said no to the soil clearance.

The Superintendence said the archaeological investigation was “unnecessary” and “unjustified” as the site is a ‘Class A’ Area of Archaeological Importance, and is known to contain heritage features from the Bronze Age to the Modern Period.

The site footprint also includes an ancient quarry dating to the Classical period and an agricultural trench, both scheduled at ‘Class B’.

The area forms part of a wider cultural landscape which includes cart-ruts, dolmens, ancient quarries, rock-cut tombs, corbelled huts and a 16th century chapel dedicated to Santa Margherita.

“Development in this area will have a negative impact on the cultural landscape and the environs around the scheduled cultural heritage features, and would also pose a threat to any archaeological remains that may survive within the site footprint,” the superintendence said.

The superintendence recommended that the development application be refused, and urged the Planning Authority to protect the natural and cultural landscape.

The ERA also expressed its concern the soil removal was a pretext for future development in one of the few open spaces between the densely urbanized localities of Mosta and Naxxar.

The ERA highlighted the proximity of the site to temporary freshwater rock pools, a priority habitat protected by EU law, and said soil removal would impact resident vegetation and fauna in the area.

Speculation on a prospective extension of building boundaries in San Pawl tat-Targa has been fuelled by a mysterious advert on a property website – which has since been removed online – describing a 2,750 square metres plot of land located just outside the building scheme as “an investment opportunity since it is adjacent to (building) scheme and with plans to be in rationalization for development of terraced houses and villas”. The land was given a €1.8 million price tag.

More in Townscapes