Press Releases

Objection: PA 0907/17 Development in Bidnija

Attn: Planning Authority
PA 0907/17 Development in Bidnija

Front Ħarsien ODZ objects to this proposal in view of the fact that the site in question is designated as agricultural land and outside development zone. Industrial development should be limited to industrial zones according to local plans.

Stables at Munxar should be refused – application contravenes rural policy

Press Release 23.02.2017
Front Harsien ODZ objects strongly to PA 04629/16 for the demolition of existing rooms and construction of horse stables in Munxar, M’Scala which is designated for its ecological importance. The application has been recommended for approval by the Planning Authority’s Case Officer.
The application proposes to demolish pre-1978 buildings with a total footprint of 95 sq m and to replace these with a eight stables, paddocks, vet’s office, and storage with a built up footprint of 237 sq m. The stables alone will be larger than the rooms to be demolished. This strikes the Front as being in direct contravention of Rural Policy 6.2C(3) which stipulates that “the replacement building does not exceed the total floor area of the previous building/s.”
Moreover, the Front notes that since January 2016, there have been over 30 applications for stables outside the development zone, at least 15 applications to sanction existing stables, and five applications for change of use from stables into residential units. The pattern of using stables to circumvent development regulations has been evident for a number of years and the PA ought to complete its review of the Rural Policy to address this.
Front Harsien ODZ will be attending the case hearing on 24th February.

“Rural Development Guidelines should be withdrawn”

Press Release 14.02.2017
Front Harsien ODZ welcomed the fact that both the Labour and Nationalist
parties are making it clear through their media statements that they oppose
ODZ applications *for new dwellings  in rural areas*.
*While describing the application withdrawn by Bezzina  which  would have
extended three roofless rooms to accommodate a completely new dwelling, a
drive-in and a swimming pool as unacceptable, Front Harsien ODZ notes that
a number of similar applications involving the reconstruction of
countryside ruins have already been approved by the Planning Authority
thanks to the Rural Development Guidelines which were approved in 2014.*
“The Rural Development Guidelines published in 2014 facilitate ODZ
development which could have a terrible cumulative impact on Malta’s
countryside. Given the recent statements by the two major political
parties, we expect the government to ask the Planning Authority to replace
the guidelines approved in 2014 with a  more restrictive policy.”.
*In particular Front Harsien ODZ calls for a clear ban on the
reconstruction of countryside ruins to create new dwellings and for the
repeal of police 6.2.A. which permits the redevelopment of buildings with a
historical or vernacular interest as dwellings and 6.2.C which permits the
reconstruction of any building which existed prior to 1978.
*”Rather than simply exposing such cases when it suits partisan
interests as was the case with One TV, which is usually non-critical on ODZ
development such as the Zonqor proposal, political parties are expected to
make sure that policies do not pave the way for more construction in the
countryside.”  *
*Front Harsien ODZ also calls on all MPs on both sides, both  as owners and
in their professional role as architects not to exploit loopholes in
existing policies to accommodate unsustainable ODZ developments.*
Front Harsien ODZ has consistently objected to all unsustainable  ODZ
proposals in this regard.

Press Release 26.01.2017

Front Ħarsien ODZ welcomes  positive commitments in PN policy.

Front Ħarsien ODZ said that PN’s new environmental policy proposes improved environmental governance compared to the current state of affairs, which is characterised by a governance deficit and lack of environmental sensibility.
Front Ħarsien ODZ added that it expects all political parties to have clear environmental policies. The PN environment document is positive overall but some other proposals require clearer commitments.
In particular, Front welcomes the fact that the PN has heeded the Front’s recommendations with regards to two thirds parliamentary approval of ODZ projects which will now be limited to project which have have been positively recommended by the Planning Authority and only following the conclusion of the full planning process.
“This means that ODZ projects which are recommended for refusal by the PA will not be given a new lease of life in parliament. Moreover the PN’s latest document makes no reference to a previous suggestion that ODZ projects are approved by simple majority in a third vote.  In this way parliamentary approval will add an extra layer of scrutiny to normal planning procedures.”
Front thinks that  greater emphasis should have been put in the document to address  Malta’s economic over-dependence on tourism, real estate and construction.
The Front welcomed the PN’s intention to review the SPED to ensure that the protection of our countryside and ODZ leaves no room for ambiguity as is the case today, and in particular eliminate the concept of “feasibility” as a criterion for the take-up of vacant land. It would have been commendable had the PN devoted more time over the year it took to draw up this policy, to begin this review. In this way voters would have a clearer idea of the changes the PN intended to make. The same point applies to its proposal to review the MEPA demerger.
The Front also called on the PN to commit itself for a revision of  the current development  guidelines regulating rural development approved in 2014 which have resulted in the mushrooming of minor developments in the countryside as well as for a revision of policies allowing mega sized petrol stations in the countryside.
The Front also welcomes the commitment not to permit land reclamation projects for speculative purposes. But such a commitment should be extended to tourism related  projects.  The Front agrees that any other land reclamation projects will only be permitted within a framework for the spatial planning of the coastal zone and the marine area, as required by the SPED.
“One oversight in the new PN policy concerns the present government’s local plans. We demand a firm commitment from all parties to ensure that no land which is presently ODZ is included in new development boundaries.”
Rather than vague proposals on giving an “economic value” to publically owned ODZ land as suggested by the PN, the Front is calling for a firmer commitment to ensure that no government owned ODZ land is allocated for commercial development of any kind.
The Front is also calling on the PN to substantiate its proposed “zero-tolerance approach to illegal development, particularly that which is carried out in ODZ areas” by committing itself to reintroduce the clause in the 2010 planning law which precluded the PA from regularizing illegal ODZ development.
“The reintroduction of this clause is of a crucial importance as it would put an end to the build now, sanction later mentality.”
With reference to a past declaration by Simon Busuttil that he is no longer by past commitments to squatters in Armier, Front expects the PN to commit itself to restore this land to public ownership and to rehabilitate it as public open space. The Front also welcomed the emphasis given in the document to safeguarding  agricultural land  and to water management but called for a firmer stance against boreholes which extract unsustainable amounts for water, not just for agricultural purposes but also for  non agricultural use including the production of mineral water.
While reminding the public that the Żonqor development is still in time to be refused by the Planning Authority, the Front welcomes the PN’s commitment to enter into talks with AUM in order to persuade them to give up the site in Żonqor and save the ODZ land from development.
“Of crucial importance is that episodes like that of Żonqor are not repeated in the future.  The PN’s document is a positive step in that direction”

Press Release 04.01.2017

2017 – a year of ODZ challenges – Front Ħarsien ODZ

Front Ħarsien ODZ said that during 2017 it will keep mobilizing citizens for the protection of ODZ.
‘During 2017, we will keep working for the legal protection of ODZ land through a social contract between citizens and the state’.
‘Front Ħarsien ODZ will be closely following the planning process for the private University on ODZ land at Żonqor. We believe that an alternative site should be found for this development. We will also be closely following the Paceville master plan process as well as the relocation of fuel dispensing facilities and applications to develop ODZ residential homes in Santa Lucija, Birgu and Naxxar. We believe that a national study for alternative sites should be carried out before committing ODZ land at Ħas-Saptan for the relocation’.
‘We will also be following the large number of small ODZ applications in view of their cumulative impact on ODZ land’.


Press Release 29.11.2016

Żonqor Core-Cutting: Front demands explanation

Front Ħarsien ODZ said that Government and the Planning Authority should explain why core-cutting is currently being carried out at Żonqor in Marsascala.
“It is unclear why core cutting is being carried out at Zonqor. The M’Scala local council has not been informed on this. Yet, to do date there is no official application for the development of the American University of Malta on this site. Government  should immediately clarify the matter, and the Planning Authority should immediately state whether such works are covered by a permit”.
“Government should respect the public and be transparent on the situation at Zonqor, which was subject to Malta’s biggest ever environmental protest in 2015”.