Developers press on with bid to extend Zabbar development zone

Public consultation, with the public invited to submit presentations between 17 April and 29 May on the extension of the development zone in Zabbar

A developer’s bid to extend the development zone in Zabbar is being issued for public consultation, with the public invited to submit presentations between 17 April and 29 May.

The non-starter application seeks an extension of development boundaries along Labour Avenue in Zabbar. But judging from recent decisions by the Planning Authority, the application has little chances of being approved.

In fact, in March the PA’s Executive Council unanimously rejected two similar planning control applications to extend development zones in Ta’ Lehfar, Triq it-Tamar, Ghasri, and Triq il-Qsajjem, Xlendi.

The executive council, chaired by the PA’s executive chairman Johann Buttigieg, had strongly objected to the proposals since the sites were located outside development zones (ODZ) and would have also introduced additional threats to the countryside in the form of a precedent for similar proposals.

Zabbar mayor Marc Vella Bonnici said that the council had objected to the application after consultation with the council's architects and residents living in the vicinity.

Back in November, a PA spokesperson categorically told MaltaToday the authority had no intention of accepting requests to extend the development zones beyond the 2006 boundaries. “Planning Control applications which propose extensions to the development zone cannot be considered favourably”.

The application earmarks 13,865sq.m of agricultural land in Zabbar for the development boundaries, and was presented in June 2018 by developer Charles Camilleri’s CA&S Limited.

The move would result in nothing less than a portion of land equivalent to two football grounds, located along Labour Avenue in Zabbar, being added to the extended development zones.

The agriculture land is being proposed for residential development in the vicinity of James Garage and Lourdes Service Station, part of a large stretch of agricultural land between Triq il-Kunsill tal-Ewropa and Labour Avenue.

The request is called a planning control application, which proposes the inclusion of the site “in the development scheme” by changing the zoning of the area that is presently outside development boundaries.

The application was presented by Jodie Camilleri on behalf of CA&S Limited, one of whose owners is developer Charles Camilleri, known as ‘Tal-Franciz’: he is currently involved in the company seeking a green light for a 13-storey development on the site of the former Jerma Hotel in Marsaskala. The site has multiple owners as the applicant declared he does not own the site in full.

Since the site is presently ODZ, no development except that foreseen in the 2014 rural policy rules, can be allowed.

The Zabbar application is unprecedented because it proposes, for the first time since the revision of the development boundaries in 2006, that an extensive pocket of ODZ land is scheduled for residential development. In this case the extension is being proposed through an application by a private developer, and not by the government or the Planning Authority, as happened in 2006.

Over the past years development in ODZ areas has been mainly restricted to a range of developments permitted by the 2014 rural policy, which apart from developments related to agriculture also allows the redevelopment of the ruins of older buildings.

Minister Ian Borg recently told MaltaToday that the government will not be changing the development boundaries last enlarged in 2006 for the “foreseeable” future.

Information recently presented in parliament revealed that upon commencing a revision of the local plans months after being elected to office in 2013, the Labour government was inundated by proposals by landowners to include their plots in development schemes.

In Gozo alone, 497 submissions have been made, seeking permission to extend the development zones on parcels of land kept outside the boundaries.

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