Harsien Patrimonju Mosti


Ref: Application PA/00529/12

Concerning: Full development permission based on a former permit on site 146/148, Triq il-Kostituzzjoni, Mosta.

Date: 25th July, 2012

Subject: Joint submissions by the following listed Objectors:  Harsien Patrimonju Mosti, Nature Trust Wied il-Ghasel Residential Committee and a number of individual objecting residents as per attached signatures and details. (Omitted in this online version).

With reference to the above captioned application, and the recommended approval being recommended by MEPA’s respective case officers, we would like to make the following submissions and reiterate our wholesome objection towards the granting of this permit.

We would first like to remind the authority that this is a new application, strongly related to a formerly approved development permit PA 05560/05, which is still being legally contested at Court level.

We shall duly be presenting evidence that clearly shows the Revision Tribunal’s findings and conclusions within their dismissal report to be flawed and incorrect.

As for this application (529/12), we feel that notwithstanding some of the points of objection raised by the respective objectors, several crucial items were put aside and unheeded.

The case officer report highlights the fact that all parties concerned acknowledge and approve that no more digging shall occur in this sensitive site, and that the building perimeter has been marginally reduced in the area closest to the valley bed proper.

Mention is made of the Heritage Planning Unit and the Environment Protection Directorate, “and both sections are in favour of the proposed modifications since the said modifications will have less impact on Wied il-Ghasel than was originally approved”. (Bold script is our emphasis).

Less impact? So there will be an impact, and we trust, not a positive one, if we keep in context of the quote itself. Would this also mean that what was originally approved in permit PA 05560/05 was going to have more impact?  We have no doubts, and this is why we have initiated court proceedings in this regard.

The developers’ architect, when requested to submit valid justification for the complete elimination of car-parking facilities from the site, indicated in doc.17 “that in order to minimize the aesthetic and environmental impact on Wied il-Ghasel a large part of the development facing Casa Arkati will not be developed”.  He also added that “Limiting the amount of excavations would also reduce the risk of structural damages to adjoining properties. Any risk to the existing ‘Girna’ will be eliminated because the rock directly beneath it would not need to be excavated”

So by admission, PA 05560/05 was going to have a more significant aesthetic and environmental impact of the valley and entire area, recognised by this authority in this very report as being an Area of Ecological Importance, an Area of High Landscape Value (Rural Landscape), and Valley System.  And what about the structural risks of third party property and the Girna? We find any permit that constitutes any risk to adjacent properties or to our national heritage (in this case, the last remaining Girna in a city core) absolutely unacceptable.

However, the point remains that with either development, there is going to be a negative impact on the valley, as well as its ecosystems, surroundings and at several other levels, adequately defined in countless objections and reservations made over the years and also within this application.

Nothing has been said much about the devastating impact this project is going to have in terms of over-development.  This has partially been recognized by the authority as follows:

“The removal of on-site car parking facilities is a planning concern”
It is an even greater concern to existing uses including the residents and commercial entities in the area, since even without this development and proposed influx of nearly 40 cars, parking and traffic issues are already intense!

The addition of this large number of vehicles cannot but have a huge detrimental effect and long term problems as a direct result of over-development, with a huge imposed inconvenience to both the people who live and work in this area.

The situation today already is difficult, as shop owners require parking spaces for their patrons as well as their staff and have to compete with the residents for an already limited and inadequate parking.

The conclusion of the authority’s report states that “The proposed modifications are within the parameters as established in PA 5560/05”, and that “Despite that the proposed complete elimination of car parking from the site, limiting the amount of excavations would have less negative impacts on Wied il-Ghasel and the existing Girna”, hence “An approval is therefore being recommended.”

(It was also proposed that the sum of EUR 70,813 shall be paid to the council in terms of the Commuted Parking Payments Scheme of Mosta, “to compensate for the shortfall of 38 parking spaces”).

We find this conclusion to be seriously against the principles of sustainable development, and wholly insensitive to proper development guidelines. We also find no justification in such an approval, and the conclusion does not properly address some very serious issues.

The proposal of the mentioned compensatory sum to the council in no way addresses the above concerns either.

Furthermore, this grant permit recommendation bases its consent gauged on the fact that there shall be less damages and negative impacts than as per permit 05560/05, when the law clearly states that no negative impact(s) should be allowed, especially in such sensitive areas.

One must also consider the ethical and moral responsibilities of this authority in terms of its own mission statement which clearly states that sites of certain value, including open spaces is heavily dense town cores should be protected, and not tarnished, or even destroyed.

The fact that the former permit was to have a greater negative impact only shows that our claims in that regard have been correct, and both for this, and other reasons, PA 05560/05 should never have been granted. 

We also refer to issues raised in former site evaluations by MEPA’s own case officers, and remind the authority that over-development and the detrimental effect on the area with all its assets and existing uses, was one of the main causes for refusal.  Despite several aesthetic modifications from the original submissions, the issue of over-development has never been properly addressed.  Along with the latest consideration pertaining to parking issues, these factors by themselves should have been and remain enough to prompt the authority to turn this application down.

As for the former application, an appeal in court is now ongoing, and we strongly believe that in view of fairness, reference to it should only be made once proceedings have expired and the final decision has been taken.

Although we recognise that when the original appeal lodged by Nature Trust was instilled in 2009, the legislation then in place allowed works on site to proceed at the risk of the developer. This was an obvious abuse of the principle of fair negotiation since it compromised the efforts of third party appellants who were fighting to save something that was being destroyed, or irreversibly altered and damaged in one and the same moment.

The state has since acknowledged this shortcoming, and the law has been rectified accordingly to ensure fair dealings and adequate protection to sites still being contested in appeal.

We ask the authority to base its actions upon this principle and in turn to recognise that since this new application is being considered on the basis of the former permit, the validity of the latter is still under legal review with the latest proceedings initiated earlier this summer.

It would be in the spirit of the same legal amendments and procedures, not to approve this new application on the basis of its dependency to a permit which is still being contested.

For all the above reasons, we would like to object to the approval of this new application. We also hope for a more sensitive evaluation of the evidence and issues raised at objection phase, as well as within this submission, and ask the authority to refuse this permit unconditionally.