Eight football grounds of agricultural land to be lost to Central Link road project

Although the loss of agricultural land is less than what had been envisaged in the local plan, the road project will still gobble up approximately 60,000sq.m of farmland, a preliminary study by Transport Malta shows

Part of the agricultural land that will be lost to the Central Link project in the outskirts of Attard
Part of the agricultural land that will be lost to the Central Link project in the outskirts of Attard

Eight football pitches of farmland will be permanently lost as a result of the Central Link project connecting Mrieħel, Attard and Rabat, according to a preliminary study.

The preliminary impact assessment said the project would result in approximately 60,000sq.m of agricultural land.

The road-widening project will link the Mrieħel bypass to the roundabout at the foot of Saqqajja Hill, below Rabat.

The study was conducted by ADI, an environmental consultancy firm, for Transport Malta. It was presented to the Environment and Resources Authority, which concluded that a full environment impact assessment is now required before the Planning Authority makes its decision.

The preliminary assessment recommends the reduction in the take up of agricultural land in view of the impact on agricultural productivity and on the livelihood of farmers using the land.

According to the PDS the land take-up for the proposed road is 11,486sq.m less than that envisaged in the Central Malta Local Plan. Agricultural land take-up has been reduced by creating a bypass accommodating westbound traffic only.

The study said that an increase in hard-surfacing is likely to exacerbate storm water runoff and reduce aquifer recharge.

According to the same report the project involves the uprooting of 402 trees in different areas of the project. Of these, 147 cannot be transplanted elsewhere. These include 92 indigenous species and five alien species.

The report warns that there may be difficulties in securing the successful transplantation of the more mature trees; and therefore there may be the loss of more trees than currently envisaged.

The tree loss will be compensated by growing new trees along various sections of the project.

Loss of farmland

The initial assessment of the significance of the impact on agricultural land suggests potentially “major negative impacts”, including the loss of high quality, irrigated and cultivated agricultural land in the area south of Triq Oliver Agius, where there are a number of greenhouses, reservoirs, and farms.

Another sensitive area which will be impacted is the one between Triq Oliver Agius and Triq Ferdinandu Inglott (west of Triq Hannibal), which presently hosts a large farm complex, managed by a full-time farmer. This farm includes a number of greenhouses, as well as underground cisterns. 

A number of hobby farms in the area south of Triq Ferdinandu Inglott and Triq San Pawl will also be lost. The project will also incur the partial loss of land cultivated for vines, including the Delicata Vineyard located to the north of Triq l-Imdina and to the west of the Attard development zone, and a smaller vineyard on the northern side of Triq l-Imdina. 

An initial survey of the area south of Attard suggests the value of the agricultural land in this area to be of medium to high value.

According to the study the government is proposing alternative farming sites to those farmers that will be affected by the scheme. 

One of the buildings that will be demolished along the route
One of the buildings that will be demolished along the route

As regards air quality the PDS envisages an improvement in air quality in the area of Triq l-Imdina junction with Triq iż-Żagħfran to the junction with Triq in-Nutar Zarb, due to the likely reduction in traffic on this part of the route.

However, in the areas adjoining Triq Oliver Agius, Triq Ferdinandu Inglott and Triq Tumas Chetcuti, the project may result in a deterioration in air quality given the increased traffic in this area owing to the new bypass.

To mitigate this negative impact the bypass will be constructed at a lower level, creating a buffer between the bypass and the local access road. The buffer zone will include cycle paths which will be bordered by trees planted on the outer edge of the bypass.

The scheme will include approximately eight kilometres of new cycle paths along this route.

The project will also result in the demolition of three buildings, which according to the report have “some historical and architectural significance”. One of these rural structures is located in the vicinity of the Chapel of St Paul which may lose part of the garden which surrounds it.

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