Development boundaries to be tweaked again

Bahar ic-Caghaq being considered for land reclamation

Bahar ic-Caghaq for land reclamation? No area is being privileged over others but confirmed that this site is being considered.
Bahar ic-Caghaq for land reclamation? No area is being privileged over others but confirmed that this site is being considered.

In an exclusive interview with MaltaToday Michael Falzon, the parliamentary secretary responsible for planning and government lands, revealed that the new local plans will tweak development boundaries once again, adding lands, which were unfairly left out in the controversial 2006 rationalisation. 

While excluding a major extension of development boundaries Falzon confirmed that boundaries may be extended in some cases.

“The general political direction is that the new local plans will not double or triple the size of the development zone… We are saying clearly that as far as possible the development zone will not increase.”

But when asked why the government does not simply keep boundaries as these are today, Falzon justified tweaking the 2006 boundaries by accusing the former government of being “creative” in including certain lands and not others.

“Even from an aesthetic point of view it would make sense to include lands which were left out unfairly,” the minister said, while adding that “there is no intention to repeat the obscenities committed in 2006.”

In 2006 the rationalisation exercise in which an area the size of Siggiewi was added to development zones, was justified by the previous government as a way to fill “infill sites” (previously ODZ land surrounded on two sides by existing development) which had been left out from the temporary building plans in 1988.

In the same interview Falzon also revealed that the ecologically sensitive Bahar ic-Caghaq area is one of the sites being considered for land reclamation. The parliamentary secretary excluded any land reclamation projects in Gozo and on the entire stretch of shoreline between Birzebbugia and Cirkewwa.

When asked directly whether Bahar ic-Caghaq has been identified as one of the sites for land reclamation, Falzon replied that no area is being privileged over others but confirmed that this site is being considered.

“We are not talking about Bahar ic-Caghaq only… Although Bahar ic-Caghaq is not being excluded there will be no concentration of land reclamation projects in this area.”

What Falzon could outrightly exclude is “having three or four land reclamation projects” in Bahar ic-Caghaq.

Falzon insisted that land reclamation will not consist in “standalone real estate projects” but acknowledged that some investors would be looking at recovering their investment through some real estate.

In June MaltaToday revealed that the construction of an artificial island along the coast road opposite Qalet Marku is one of the preferred options among the 21 land reclamation proposals made by 17 companies, which are currently being considered by government officials.

No policy currently exists to regulate land reclamation but the new Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development (SPED), which is set to replace the structure plan, includes a reference to land reclamation. 

Bahar ic-Caghaq was one of two sites, along with the area between Xghajra and Marsaskala, identified for land reclamation in a study by Danish consultants Carl Bro in 2005.

But a subsequent report by British consultants Scott Wilson exploring different land reclamation shapes in these two sites excluded land reclamation in the Bahar ic-Caghaq area because of the ecological impact on posidonia meadows, which are protected by EU law, even if it concluded that development in this area was the most financially sustainable.

Malta can still cite an “overriding national interest” to justify development in breach of EU laws protecting posidonia meadows.

The report concluded that land reclamation is not a “viable” way to dispose of construction waste and that land reclamation could only become financially viable if accompanied by real estate development.