NGOs in final 'appeal for common sense' as Central Link Project set for approval

A group of twelve NGOs are calling on authorities to rethink the proposed Central Link Project in Attard, a day before the Planning Authority takes a final decision on the project 

A final decision on whether the project will be granted a permit will be taken by the Planning Authority tomorrow
A final decision on whether the project will be granted a permit will be taken by the Planning Authority tomorrow

The Attard Residents Environmental Network and the Bicycle Advocacy Group, together with ten other NGOs have come together to appeal to the government and the Planning Authority to reconsider the proposed Central Link Project in Attard.

The €55 million project intends to upgrade the road network between the Mrieħel bypass and Saqqajja Hill, and was recommended for approval earlier this month, with a final decision to be taken tomorrow.

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.

In a statement on Wednesday, the NGOs urged authorities to reconsider a number of objections and proposals they were putting forward, adding that despite reassurances that new plans would be taken into consideration, these proposals were “never taken up and have been repeatedly ignored”.

READ MORE: Historian makes impassioned appeal to save chapel from roadworks

“[We] would like to appeal to the authorities so that common sense will prevail in order to safeguard our urban and rural environment which is at heart to all Maltese,” the NGOs said.

They pointed to the fact that “over 600 mature trees” and an estimated 48,000 sq.m of agricultural land would be destroyed as a result of the project. “This will create more space for additional car lanes, slip lanes and huge junctions, without taking into consideration the induced demand such a project will create.”

Moreover, the NGOs said that several “cultural infrastructures” in the vicinity of St Paul’s Chapel would be directly affected through the demolition or would be in danger of being damaged both during the construction phase as well as once the road is completed.

They said that several residents - some 1,200 – would also be “practically isolated” from the centre of the village by two major roads.

“Air and noise pollution generated from traffic passing through Oliver Agius Street, Ferdinand Inglott Street and Tumas Chetcuti Street would increase drastically,” the NGOs said.

The NGOs also insisted out that traffic passing through Attard especially through Triq Hal Warda, Triq iz-Zaghfran and Triq in-Nutar Zarb “would not be reduced.” 

They added that the project would also cause inconvenience, and would increase traffic on the service and adjacent residential roads.

Furthermore, the fact that the seven junctions between Rabat and Mrieħel are unconnected rendered the project “dangerous for anyone on bicycles, and pedestrians”.

READ MORE: Central link road project in Attard recommended for approval

“The proposed cycle lanes start and end nowhere, and accessing them will involve attempting to cross busy main roads without any safe crossings,” the NGOs said.  

Finally, concerns were also raised regarding how the project would affect people from the Attard, Balzan and Birkirkara area, who the group said lacked a “basic bicycle network” and who will be forced to travel by car as “alternative modes of transport will fail them”.

“The lack of basic bicycle network and safe pedestrianised areas will discourage people to shift to alternative modes of transport and alleviate traffic,” the NGOs said.  

The appeal was signed by the following groups: Attard Residents Environmental Network, the Bicycle Advocacy Group, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth (Malta), Futur Ambjent Wieħed, Isles of the Left, Moviment Graffiti, Għaqda Siġar Maltin, Nature Trust Malta, Ramblers' Association of Malta and Żminijietna. 

READ MORE: Central Link Project final plans shift controversial new road further away from residents

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