Central link road project in Attard recommended for approval

A final decision by the Planning Authority board will be taken on 18 July

The blue line represents the extent of the Central Link project that connects the Saqqajja Hill roundabout (left) to the Mrieħel bypass (right). The road passes through Attard.
The blue line represents the extent of the Central Link project that connects the Saqqajja Hill roundabout (left) to the Mrieħel bypass (right). The road passes through Attard.

The Central Link project that will upgrade the road network between Mrieħel bypass and Saqqajja Hill is being recommended for approval by the Planning Directorate.

The project will transform the road that passes through Attard into a four-lane thoroughfare.

Two new lanes in the direction to Rabat will be constructed in the outskirts of Attard on agricultural land, while southbound traffic will be shifted to the road where the Bonds showroom and Wood & Coal restaurant are situated. This will eliminate the bottleneck in Attard where the speed camera is situated.

The planning board will be taking a final decision on Thursday 18 July.

The project will also upgrade several junctions along the stretch of road and create pedestrian and cycle lanes.

An Environment Impact Assessment carried out last year had warned that the project will result in the permanent loss of 48,466sq.m of good quality agricultural land and the uprooting of 549 trees, 272 of which are protected by law.

The EIA had also referred to various scientific studies which explain that whilst road widening schemes in urban areas are often proposed as a solution to traffic congestion, there is “clear evidence that new or expanded roads rapidly fill with displaced or induced traffic, offsetting any short-term gains in eased traffic flows”.

While acknowledging these negative impacts, the case officer referred to a cost benefit analysis carried out in June 2018, which states that lack of intervention in the area will reach a state of gridlock by 2028.

Improvements in air quality are foreseen as a result of the elimination of traffic jams and gridlocks that may otherwise ensue without the project, “under the current traffic projections”.  

As regards the removal of trees the case officer notes that the overall number of trees that will be planted as compensation for the lost mature trees is greater than the number to be removed.  A total of 766 new trees will be planted.

A number of structures in the vicinity of the chapel of St Paul Shipwrecked are proposed to be demolished to allow the creation of a link between Triq Oliver Aguis and Triq Ferdinand Inglott which is considered by Infrastructure Malta as “imperative for the performance and relevance of the project”.

While noting that that the works will not impact on the historical chapel of St Paul Shipwrecked itself, the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage had called for the rerouting of the proposed network to avoid the demolition of these vernacular buildings near the chapel.

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This issue is left unresolved with the Planning Directorate recommending that each building or building cluster identified by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage as being worthy of protection “is subject to a separate permit application.”

These separate applications will be assessing “the viability and methods of relocation, together with assessment of works method statement and a restoration method statement for these buildings clusters that are to be dismantled, salvaged, relocated and reconstructed”.

A total of 6,500 truck round trips (12 trips per day) will be necessary to transport 195,000 cubic metres of construction waste generated by the project during 18 months of excavations.

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