Coastal addition turns Zonqor ‘green area’ into formal ODZ

Zonqor point’s coastline was safeguarded as a green area but included as part of 2006 development boundaries – now added to Nwadar park’s ODZ area

Two swathes of land annexed for the Nwadar nature park will “harmonise” the protection of the park’s natural and cultural heritage and the open rural landscape in the Zonqor area, although the additional 44,000 square metres of land are already largely safeguarded from development. On the other hand 18,000 square meters of land earmarked for the park in 2006 are being excluded following the transfer of this public land to Sadeen Group.

The nature park of over 950,000 sq.m, first designated in 2006, will see additional land added to it, including 30,000 sq.m of coastal land beneath the proposed American University of Malta that had been retained in the development boundaries issued back in 2006; and another 14,000 sq.m of pristine coastline in the vicinity of the sewage treatment plant that is already outside development zones.

Environment minister Leo Brincat announced yesterday a plan for the environmental stewardship of the Nwadar park, that will improve “practices for rural development while protecting the existing open character of this coastal area”.

The 30,000 square metre coastal land at Zonqor point had been retained in development boundaries in 2006, although coastal areas are excluded from development under local plans. The government now intends to remove this already safeguarded area from the development zone.

The area is in fact designated as a “green area”, which means their open character must be respected, and which can only be developed by way of “upgrading” for public recreational facilities in the form of children play areas or landscaped seating areas for use by the general public.

Although underground development is permitted on some of these "green areas" (which include public spaces in urban areas), the Zonqor point site was not identified for this sort of development. In 1998 the site was also ‘scheduled’ for its archaeological importance due to the presence of salt pans, but the scheduling was not subsequently renewed.

A consultation document issued by the government states that in discussions on the development application of the American University of Malta, at Marsaskala, “due attention should be given to safeguarding access along the coast to the park from the Zonqor area to avoid further take-up of the undeveloped shore. The nature and scale of the development must result in a harmonious landscape, benefiting the visual integrity of the park from land and sea.”

‘Not compensation for AUM’

“This extension is being proposed on the basis of what would constitute a fully functioning nature park, not as compensation for the area transferred by Parliament for the proposed American University,” the Management Plan Brief issued by the government states.

The extension has been billed as a way of making the Nwadar park a “complete entity, harmonising natural heritage, cultural heritage and the open rural landscape.”

The 18,000 sq.m land parcel around the national pool at Zonqor point, transferred for the development of the American University of Malta, will be excluded from the park’s confines. The land was originally part of the designated nature park first proposed in 2006, but never implemented by the Nationalist government.  The management plan brief gives the extended park a management structure which includes a Governance Board.