Photomontages reveal extent of Zebbug Lidl’s penetration outside development zones

A visual assessment of the proposed Lidl supermarket in Zebbug has been presented to the Planning Authority, confirming an increased volume of development when viewed from street level

A visual assessment of the proposed Lidl supermarket in Zebbug has been presented to the Planning Authority, confirming an increased volume of development when viewed from street level.

The assessment also includes visual simulations of aerial views of the project on the corner between Mdina Road and Attard Road.

While the visual simulation from street level show an intensification of development, the aerial images suggest a formalisation of the degraded land that surrounds the present SMW Cortis factory, now earmarked for a car park, with an access road and landscaping.

The visual assessment includes a comparison of the present-day landscape as captured on a Google Maps image, with a visual simulation of the new development. In contrast, the street level montage from the roundabout is generated on a matching photo of the site which is also included in the assessment.

Best practice guidelines on visual simulations for environmental impact assessments (EIAs) state that photomontages have to combine baseline photos which match exactly the computer-generated image. This particular application has not been submitted to an EIA.

A scheduled windmill, known as the Mithna tas-Srina, is depicted in the aerial photomontages and is shown with its upper part restored.

The Environment and Resources Authority had called for the rehabilitation of the degraded ODZ area near the present factory, when objecting to the development.

The application foresees the demolition of the existing SMW Cortis factory, the construction of a Lidl supermarket at ground floor level, set on an underground car park and a carpentry workshop.

The proposed development

The development will cover 7,500 square metres of land, 4,932sq.m of which will be occupied by a surface car park while 2,515sq.m will be dedicated to retail. The present area of containment where commercial development is allowed covers 4,370sq.m.

While the development is located in an area of containment where industrial uses and commercial uses are allowed, the supermarket’s surface car park and access to Triq Attard will further protrude on the surrounding ODZ area.

Originally the factory had a footprint of 2,095sq.m. In 2010 the PA approved an extension consisting of two basement levels of storage over 1,950sq.m.

A permit issued to Joseph Cortis in 2014 had specified that the new premises be only used for “storage and distribution purposes”, limiting a proposed retail shop to 58sq.m on ground floor level.

Saved by the Central Link?

As proposed the project would have resulted in a traffic gridlock. But Transport Malta recently gave it clearance, claiming any traffic it will generate will be mitigated by the Central Link project in Attard.

The new supermarket’s car park will be accessed from Attard Road while access to the loading bay will be from Mdina Road.

The TIA identifies a high risk of junction failure caused by the traffic induced by the new Lidl in the roundabout between the Mdina-Attard roads, which also attracts school traffic to localities like Mgarr. The new network will limit the direct link to the area from Attard since access to Attard Road will only be available through a left turn for traffic from a westerly direction. It also foresees the Central Link thoroughfare becoming more attractive for car trips between the south-east of the island, and a reduction in traffic along the narrower Mdina road.

The Żebbuġ council had previously objected to the proposal because of the traffic congestion that will be created. Moreover, it pointed to the possible social impact the project could have on established local shops and vegetable sellers who earned their living within the locality. The council also noted that the supermarket chain already had another three mega stores within a four-mile radius, with the supermarkets in Luqa, Qormi and Santa Venera.

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