Central Link works destroy almond trees which had to be relocated

ERA confirms ‘deviations from permit’, Infrastructure Malta asks for changes to permit

A cluster of mature almond trees along the Central Link route in the vicinity of the Attard traffic lights has been obliterated
A cluster of mature almond trees along the Central Link route in the vicinity of the Attard traffic lights has been obliterated

A cluster of mature almond trees along the Central Link route in the vicinity of the Attard traffic lights has been obliterated instead of being carefully “transplanted” to another location as required by a nature permit issued by the Environment and Resources Authority last year.

Almond trees are protected by law and the maximum fine for uprooting such trees, according to regulation, amounts to €2,500 for every tree removed in breach of regulations.

The ERA has confirmed the “deviations” from the permit issued last year, which it discovered during its monitoring of the project.

Cleared: one of the forthcoming new lanes for the Central Link
Cleared: one of the forthcoming new lanes for the Central Link

A spokesperson also confirmed that Infrastructure Malta is now requesting a variation from the approved permit, to “address deviations”. The application is being processed by the ERA, which insists this will be done “without prejudice to any action” that it may consider taking.

“It is to be noted that this is a major project that may necessitate deviations from approved documents, whereby every effort is being made by ERA to guide IM to indicate variances beforehand so as to ascertain that IM undertakes works on protected trees within the parameters of the law,” the ERA spokesperson added. The ERA spokesperson did not reply when asked whether ERA intended to fine Infrastructure Malta and by how much for not adhering with permit conditions.

Almond trees are protected by law and the maximum fine for uprooting such trees
Almond trees are protected by law and the maximum fine for uprooting such trees

In total, the project, as approved, envisaged the transplanting of 237 trees including 60 almond trees, 40 of which are located in this cluster in Attard.

The permit also foresees the complete uprooting of 63 Italian cypress trees, 39 eucalyptus trees, 46 Aleppo pines and four Holm oaks.

The trees were to be transplanted and maintained by Infrastructure Malta for a period of three years from planting in another location, during which they were held responsible for the necessary after-care through “watering, weeding and pruning” as may be required.

Should any of the transplanted trees die within the three-year period, IM is obliged to plant five indigenous trees for every tree lost.

ERA did not confirm whether it had been notified before works started two weeks ago
ERA did not confirm whether it had been notified before works started two weeks ago

The permit is also subject to a bank guarantee of €509,750 and ERA “may take part or all of the bank guarantee if IM “fails to take the necessary action, in cases of non-compliance with these permit conditions.”

The permit obliged Infrastructure Malta to inform ERA on the dates of works seven days prior to their commencement. IM was also obliged to nominate an experienced tree expert to monitor the transplanting works and ensure that the transplanting is carried out in line with ERA’s guidelines. ERA had to be informed of this appointment 10 days before the commencement of work.

The ERA spokesperson confirmed that in addition to the ERA officers which are monitoring works, a “suitably qualified and experienced arboricultural expert” has been appointed as necessitated by the permit. But ERA did not confirm whether it had been notified before works started two weeks ago. The works had been commenced while the courts are still hearing an appeal against the approval of the project.

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