BirdLife Malta wrote an open letter today to Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) Chairman Victor Axiak and Planning Authority (PA) Chairman Vincent Cassar to raise its concerns on the proposed development of a block of apartments opposite Simar Nature Reserve in Triq il-Pwales, Xemxija.
Development application PA/09759/17 for the “proposed demolition of dwellings, construction of five apartments, a recessed floor and semi-basement garage” in the same street of the reserve risks affecting the designated protected bird sanctuary that falls within a Natura 2000 site and the border of which tapers around a development zone that incorporates Xemxija. The reserve is also recognized as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for its habitats and a Special Protection Area (SPA) for its birds, as well as an area of ecological importance.
In its letter signed by CEO Mark Sultana, BirdLife Malta highlighted its concerns that the submitted plans are not in line with the Xemxija Building Heights policy of the North West Local Plan. The height limitations under this policy are four floors, however plans indicate that the proposed development exceeds these limitations by planning six floors for the apartments including one recessed floor.
In November 2016 BirdLife Malta already expressed its concerns about the possibility that the area surrounding Simar Nature Reserve could be subject to building development,negatively impacting the viability of the reserve.
Apart from the fact that developments have to be in line with local policies, the immediate impact of construction and use of heavy machinery is also of serious concern because it would disrupt wildlife and deter people from visiting the reserve to enjoy nature.
Other long term concerns from more intensive development of the surrounding area next to the reserve include noise and light pollution generated from buildings impinging on the nature reserve, and heavier traffic flow due to more residents in the area.
In this regard, BirdLife Malta is urging both ERA and PA to take an immediate position due to the sensitive nature of the site and if need be, revisit the policies in question to ensure a buffer area to the Natura 2000 site is maintained.
BirdLife Malta insists that all Natura 2000 sites should be protected at all costs, especially since Malta has the highest building density in the European Union.
The proposed development application was submitted to the PA in September 2017 and is scheduled for a final decision on 2nd April 2018.