Smart City road will be a “total disaster” for Fgura, says report

A 643 meter road dual carriage way linking Bieb is-Sultan in Zabbar to Triq San Rokku next to the Capuchin convent in Kalkara will be a “total disaster” for the residents of Fgura if the link road is not extended up to tal-Barrani, a social impact study by sociologist Mario Vassallo concludes.

He comes to this conclusion because of the estimated 23,000 daily car trips solely generated by the Smart City project will have to pass directly from an already polluted and congested Fgura.

A Master Plan published by Transport Malta already shows how Smart City will eventually link with the Tal-Barrani Area to alleviate traffic problems in Fgura but the report states that the larger project will only be finalised by 2020.

If the government sticks to this deadline, Fgura residents will have to endure a “very long period of ten more years,” during which the extra traffic created by Smart City traffic will only pass from Fgura, Vassallo contends.

His report calls on the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) not to issue a permit for the new link road unless a “strong and verifiable commitment” is taken to “radically” shorten the time frame for the development of the Tal-Barrani link road.

Otherwise the development “despite its usefulness for SmartCity” would simply lead to “a new bottleneck creating more and very serious social problems, with a high social price, than what it seeks to solve for a long period of at least ten years.”

The EIA describes driving through Fgura as being already very problematic at present and the proposed road on its own will make things much worse for the inhabitants of that town.

“It would create much more pollution than at present with the obvious negative consequences on the health of the population there”.

In the absence of a link with tal-Barrani, “the situation at the outskirts of Żabbar and within Fgura could potentially be much worse than at present” because the new road will simply pump huge amounts of new traffic, into junctions which are already over capacity handling  traffic from Żabbar and Marsascala onto a densely populated Fgura.

If the link road project joining Kalkara to Tal-Barrani is not completed, the negative social impacts of the new project would be substantial, because rather than spreading the negative impact of the larger volume of traffic generated by the SmartCity and Cottonera developments along existing routes, it would consolidate them into one, already over-tensioned, densely inhabited stretch.

Fgura council concerned

Moreover, concern is mounting among residents in Fgura, with the new locality’s Mayor Byron Camilleri expressing serious reservations on the new development.

“Although we are in favour of the SmartCity project we cannot accept a situation where all traffic passes from Fgura as this will have a massive impact on residents’ health which is already serious: with present traffic flows with more residents are complaining of asthma.”

The council is still studying the reports in the EIA but Camilleri made it clear that the council would be demanding compensation in the form of planning gains for the local community if the road is deemed to be inevitable.

But extending the new road to Tal-Barrani could result in further environmental problems. The present proposal already results in the loss of 14,500 square meters of agricultural land.  Further encroachments on agricultural land could result if the road is extended to Tal-Barrani.

Amendments to the Grand Harbour Local Plan (Policy GT03) approved in 2007 did not envision a Link Road from Bieb is-Sultan to Triq Santu Rokku, Kalkara, but one linking the Tal-Barrani road to Kalkara.

Sources in MEPA have told MaltaToday that it would make more sense to assess the impact of the whole road linking Tal-Barrani with Smart City, rather than a piecemeal approach through which the link road is being approved in segments. 

Where were the MEPA planners? Do the people want this project and then die of pollution? On occasions that I had to pass through the area I found that it is very frustrating to pass through Fgura and the surrounding areas. What with the additional 23,000 cars daily? You cannot really breath as you can feel and smell that the air is very heavily polluted. Does the government know about the incidence of asthma in Fgura, Zejtun and the Cottonera Area?