Mensija development unanimously rejected

Planning Authority refuses controversial Mensija development application days after Environment and Resources Authority issued conservation order

Mensija Chapel in San Gwann
Mensija Chapel in San Gwann

The Planning Authority has unanimously rejected an application for a residential development in the area of the Ta’ Mensija chapel in San Ġwann.

The refusal comes after Environment and Resources Authority last week issued a conservation order and protection notice which included the site of the proposed development.

The controversial application, which had been submitted by Clifton Cassar, had drawn over 250 objections from the public, residents and NGOs.

It had envisaged the demolition of existing dilapidated structures to be replaced by a five-storey building hosting 39 luxury apartments and pools, built on a ridge just above Wied Għomor.

The Torri ta' Lanzun
The Torri ta' Lanzun

ERA has now designated the area, referred to as the Solution Subsidence Structure in Tal-Mensija, as a Special Area of Geological Importance with the aim to conserve and protect the geology and geomorphology of the site due to the natural features that encompass flora, fauna, natural habitats and the unique cave structures that form part of the historic Mensija Chapel and underlie neighbouring dwellings.

The stability of a series of caves that lie just beneath the ridge over which the site of the proposed development extended was of concern, the ERA said.

Planned excavation close to these caves could have lead to structural damage and the collapse of the historic Mensija Chapel, that continues to host people from the community for daily mass, and overlying private dwellings, putting people’s life at risk. Due to the extent of the caves, concerns were also raised regarding potential structural damage to Torri Ta’ Lanzun.

ERA also said that damage to the steep slope of the natural sinkhole, one of the few in Malta, also referred to as a Maqluba, that lies just below the ridge and which contains a natural habitat for flora and fauna could have taken place as a result of the development. Objectors to the project indicated that it is evident that this natural topography needed to be retained.

Furthermore, ERA emphasised that the height of the proposed development will amongst other factors have a negative impact through shading on the about 30 protected carob trees which are more than 100 years old. Their survival depends on direct sunlight which will be drastically reduced if this project materialises. Together with other natural vegetation, these mature trees serve as a vital lung for people in the Mensija hamlet.

The visual impact the large project would have on the aesthetics of the area was also a source of contention.

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