Works to turn Xewkija rural area into park and ride start without permit
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Works to turn Xewkija rural area into park and ride start without permit

Application marked as being in 'screening process'

Heavy machinery engaged on excavation and clearing works at Tax-Xħajma.

Heavy machinery engaged on excavation and clearing works at Tax-Xħajma.

Extensive excavation works to turn a rural area in Xewkija into a park and ride facility and a bus terminus have started although planning permits have still to be issued.

The works in an area known as Tax-Xħajma, next to the horse racing track, form part of an EU-funded project aimed at building a multi-modal hub to ease parking problems.

An application submitted to the Planning Authority by the Gozo Ministry last October was still under consideration and the Environmental and Resources Authority has demanded environmental studies, building industry sources said.

Yet, they added, bulldozers and other heavy machinery already cleared the area, moved earth and uprooted vegetation and trees over the past four weeks.

The large rural area has already been levelled and all rubble and construction material has been cleared. No signs of any trees remain as people familiar with the area said that “everything was savagely uprooted”.

Works are being carried out on the site pertained to mineral and geological explorations and surveying

Research conducted by Times of Malta shows the development application is still marked as being in the “screening process”.

According to one of the first consultation responses to the application, ERA asked the Gozo Ministry to supply it with additional information including a project description statement and information on the traffic impact the project is expected to generate.

A PA spokesman confirmed when asked that the Gozo Ministry application was still under evaluation. He added, however, that the ongoing works “do not require a permit” as they were in line with subsidiary legislation related to development notification orders.

Asked to be more specific, the spokesman said that “works are being carried out on the site pertained to mineral and geological explorations and surveying”.

He insisted that “surveys are still being carried out”.

Other works, the spokesman continued, were related to the removal of illegally-dumped material covered by an enforcement notice issued more than a decade ago.

Seasoned architects told Times of Malta it was “very creative” if the subsidiary legislation quoted by the PA spokesman was to be used for such large projects.

“That subsidiary legislation was put in place to exempt small works, such as painting, minor internal works, installation of awnings or drilling of small boreholes for surveys and not massive excavation works,” an experienced architect insisted.

“Instead of admitting that the Gozo Ministry is running rough-shod over existing planning rules, they are trying to invent an excuse while not realising how ridiculous they could be,” another said.

The industry sources warned that the Gozo Ministry was “playing with fire” because, bearing in mind that 80% of the project was EU funded, Brussels might start asking questions on why the works had started before a proper planning permit had been issued.

 

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