Dingli farmland lost to sports track to ‘promote health and well-being’

Foundation for Tomorrow's Schools insists the planned project will provide both students and the community with sports facilities

The national schools agency has justified its plans for a sports complex set on 22,000 sq.m of agricultural land in Dingli, on the basis that the complex would be promoting physical education, health and well-being
The national schools agency has justified its plans for a sports complex set on 22,000 sq.m of agricultural land in Dingli, on the basis that the complex would be promoting physical education, health and well-being

The national schools agency Foundation for Tomorrow’s Schools has justified its plans for a sports complex set on 22,000sq.m of agricultural land in Dingli as a way of “further promoting physical education, health and well-being” for both students and the community.

In its project development statement, the FTS acknowledged that its sports halls and athletics track for Dingli will be located on tilled agricultural land and would result in the removal and relocation of some trees.

The area includes over 30 carob trees and a number of cypress trees.

The soil removed from the site will be moved at a nearby ‘disturbed’ site, also outside development zones, as part of a mitigation measure.

The area includes over 30 carob trees and a number of cypress trees
The area includes over 30 carob trees and a number of cypress trees

But FTS excluded locating the sports complex to this site, because the sports halls would end up being built on higher land and further away from the St Nicholas College.

The FTS insists the proposal will provide both students and the community with sports facilities. The project includes an indoor sports hall and swimming pool, with changing rooms, a lobby, two classrooms, a two-storey office building, First Aid room and storage space. It also includes a 200m athletics track with two five-a-side football pitches in its central area.

Apart from serving the college, the sports complex will provide sports amenities to the general public outside school hours.

The FTS said it had considered other sites in the environs of the other schools pertaining to St Nicholas College network in Attard, Mgarr, Imtarfa, Bahrija, Rabat and Dingli. But these were excluded either because they were located in built-up areas, not as accessible by other schools in the same college, or because any expansion was deemed to have a greater negative environmental impact.

The FTS said the proposed layout will facilitate the flow of school transport traffic around the perimeter of this fenced recreation space, so students will alight from buses directly onto the school pavement without crossing vehicular traffic flows, considerably improving safety.

The north-west location of the sports hall and indoor pool will also “shield the school from
wind as well as from dust emanating from the nearby quarry.”  By clustering the halls together with the school building, and placing these halls behind the school away from the main road, the sports halls will have a “low visual impact from both near and long views.”

Earlier this year, the Environment and Resources Authority described the project as “excessive and unjustifiable”, warning that the construction of the sports facility would lead to the loss of valuable agricultural land and further “intensify the presence of built structures in this ODZ site resulting in the loss of rural character of the area.”

The ERA questioned the justification of the new sports complex due to the other sport complex facilities already present in the vicinity of the site, including the St Nicholas primary school, Savio Collage, the Dingli Swallows football ground, and the Ta’ Qali national stadium itself.

The Environment Protection Directorate – ERA’s predecessor – had already expressed its concern on the development of the existing school which was approved in 2016. One of its main concerns was the “overall incompatibility with the rural character of the area”.

In addition, the EPD had already expressed concern on pressures for further commitment of sites beyond the school’s boundary in form of extensions, parking facilities and playgrounds.

St Nicholas College receives 650 children from the localities across Attard, Mgarr, Rabat and Dingli. The school itself had been approved instead of an already existing old building and was approved in 2015.

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