Swatar farmland: owners given free hand on zoning with no development brief

No zoning plan issued for public consultation, with PA allowing owners to present zoning application

The landowners include S.C. & Co Limited, PD Finance Limited, Paul Vella’s P&S Ltd, Anton Camilleri’s Camcas Ltd, MDA president Sandro Chetcuti, entrepreneur James Barbara and several other individual owners, including the Lands Authority
The landowners include S.C. & Co Limited, PD Finance Limited, Paul Vella’s P&S Ltd, Anton Camilleri’s Camcas Ltd, MDA president Sandro Chetcuti, entrepreneur James Barbara and several other individual owners, including the Lands Authority

Although the local plan clearly states that the Planning Authority should draft a development brief to regulate development on 123,000sq.m of land in Swatar added to development zones in 2006, the PA has no intention of issuing such a zoning plan for public consultation and will instead consider a zoning application presented by the owners of the site.

Owners have presented plans which envisage over 11,000sq.m of commercial development, 31,500sq.m of mixed residential and commercial development, and 16,000sq.m of purely residential development on Swatar farmland.

The landowners include S.C. & Co Limited, PD Finance Limited, Paul Vella’s P&S Ltd, Anton Camilleri’s Camcas Ltd, MDA president Sandro Chetcuti, entrepreneur James Barbara and several other individual owners, including the Lands Authority.

The development also foresees student housing and tourism facilities. Building heights for both commercial and residential areas are being set at seven floors. As proposed, the zoning application also proposes 27,139sq.m of “green spaces” and 26,237sq.m of new roads.

The land, which mostly consisted of agricultural 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 ancillary uses 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.

A spokesperson for the Planning Authority confirmed that the policy regulating development in this area (NHMP 13) is still “valid and applicable”.

But the PA has “not commenced the process of preparing a development brief for the area and, unless directed by Government to do so, the PA does not have the intention to prepare such a brief in the near future”.

In the absence of a development brief, “the owner/s may apply to set zoning conditions in the area through a Planning Control Applications,” the PA spokesperson told MaltaToday.

Residents have continued objecting to the development over the past days.

Anna Azzopardi, a Green Party candidate in next week’s local election in Birkirkara, insisted on the protection of the few green enclaves which create a “buffer” between Swatar and Birkikara and other densely built residential towns. “Let’s protect the little we have left,” Azzopardi said.

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