Assault on Swatar farmland: 60,000sq.m set to be developed

A zoning application seeks the green light for an extension of the town, with commercial and residential development rising over seven floors, and new student accommodation facilities on the land by the Birkirkara bypass

The site contains many fields which are still utilised and serve as a buffer zone between the highly developed areas of Swatar, Birkirkara and Msida
The site contains many fields which are still utilised and serve as a buffer zone between the highly developed areas of Swatar, Birkirkara and Msida

Swatar residents used to live in a tranquil residential area, but the extension of development zones in 2006 is about to shatter their peace.

Now they are getting to terms with the loss of an open gap of farmland and rubble walls that effectively separate Swatar and Birkirkara from Msida.

A zoning application will seek the green light for a veritable extension of the town, with commercial and residential development rising over seven floors, and new student-accommodation facilities on the land by the Birkirkara bypass.

The enormous 122,900sq.m site is being earmarked for over 11,000sq.m of commercial development, 31,500sq.m of mixed residential and commercial development, and 16,000sq.m of purely residential development.

The development also foresees student-housing accommodation and tourism facilities. Building heights for both commercial and residential areas are being set at seven floors.

The land was added to development boundaries in 2006 in the controversial extension of building boundaries carried out by the Gonzi administration.

But development in the area is presently restricted by a local plan policy which calls for a ‘development brief’ to set development parameters for the area. The brief will have to be prepared by the Planning Authority and not by private developers.

According to the local plan, a development brief should consider “low traffic generating” employment uses in the area with “preference given to uses ancillary and related to the existing Mater Dei Hospital and the University”.

The provision of a limited amount of student housing is also to be considered. The brief shall also examine the scope for the expansion of the existing private school in this area.

As proposed, the zoning application is proposing 27,139sq.m of “green spaces” and 26,237sq.m of new roads.

But one resident objecting to the development said the development of the farmland will obliterate the natural separation of the surrounding villages.

“The remaining free space and greenery between Swatar and University should not be developed… the site contains many fields which are still utilised and serve as a buffer zone between the highly-developed areas of Swatar, Birkirkara and Msida.”

Another resident described this open space as “a vital source of fresh air”.

“Please don’t take it away from us and condemn us to months of construction noise, dust and dirt,” another resident begged.

A block plan outlining the proposed development envisages commercial development along the Birkirkara bypass, while the residential component is being proposed closer to the existing residential area and the school. The central area will include a mix of developments.

Two additional floors are also being proposed on the existing St Martin’s school – plans also foresee a seven-storey “school redevelopment” site.

Various landowners have filed the planning control application, which is aimed at setting the zoning of development on the site.

Site added to development zone in 2006

The enormous site was one of the largest added to the development zones in 2006 and is bounded by Triq Dun Karm bypass, Triq is-Swatar, Triq Indri Grima and Triq Mons Innocenz Zammit. Apart from extensive agricultural fields, the area also includes a number of old farmhouses, rubble walls and some dwellings.

The PA is also considering a zoning application on another massive site in Swatar, between Valley Road (behind the Charles Grech outlet) and Triq Indri Grima, on nearly 18,000sq.m of agricultural land. The latest plans foresee 3,717sq.m of open spaces, 5,779sq.m of streets, and residential and commercial development on 9,524sq.m of land.

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