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MALTATODAY 19 September 2021

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maltatoday | SUNDAY • 19 SEPTEMBER 2021 10 NEWS JAMES DEBONO ROAD-BUILDERS Bonnici Bros want to build a basement parking area for their trucks in what was until recently an ille- gally-developed storage area in- side the San Pawl Milqi heritage site's buffer zone. The Planning Authority had approved their request to sanc- tion the illegal storage area, in close vicinity to the heritage site, in 2017 without consulting the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage, a memo by the herit- age watchdog reveals. The storage area is located just outside the buffer zone for San Pawl Milqi, site that includes the ruins of a Roman villa, cat- acombs and a chapel located within a 200m radius. Four years later, Bonnici Bros now want to excavate the site, to construct a basement parking for their trucks. The same construction com- pany, whose road-building con- tracts include an €805,000 direct order for the Triq l-Għeriexem widening in Rabat, also wants to develop a supermarket on a nearby Burmarrad site, outside the development zones. It also has a pending zoning applica- tion for apartments and retail shops on an adjacent site along Triq is-Sardin, within the de- velopment zone. Infrastructure Malta has pressed ahead with plans to build a new roundabout on the Burmarrad road that would calm down traffic on the road leading to the proposed devel- opments. In a memo on their latest application, the Superintend- ence for Cultural Heritage de- nounced the way it was ignored when the illegalities were sanc- tioned on the 3,500sq.m site four years ago. Their application to sanction the illegal storage facilities, out- side development zones, was originally turned down in 2004 due to the negative impact on the scenic value of the area. Subsequently, an enforcement order was issued against the il- legal change of use of land from agricultural to commercial, and construction of warehouses without permit. But an application to sanction the works presented in 2008, was approved nine years later despite a case officer report call- ing for refusal. The justification for overturn- ing the advice of the case officer was a permit issued in 1988, to enclose the perimeter of the site with an eight-course high masonry wall rather than a low rubble wall, seen as an indication that the site's use of a storage ar- ea had been considered in the decision of that permit. All board members, includ- ing government representative Joseph Sammut and Opposi- tion representative Ryan Callus and former PN mayor Graziella Galea had voted in favour. On- ly ERA chairman Victor Axiak and NGO representative Annick Bonello had voted against. During the meeting, the devel- oper had asked whether part of the €99,258 planning gain being proposed "could be compensat- ed for by carrying out works in the locality". The applicant had accepted to open the road in front of the property for public access. The Superintendence for Cul- tural Heritaage described the site of the development as a very sensitive location, express- ing concern at the intensive development "in the vicinity of a national monument" that is scheduled for its significant ar- chaeological and cultural herit- age valu, and on which this office had not been consulted. The Superintendence said that any works at this location are bound to have a visual impact on this scheduled monument. But since a permit was already issued to sanction illegalities on the site in 2017, the SCH ac- knowledged that the site is now committed and therefore it can- not object to alterations to ap- proved development. Still, the SCH insists that works should not intensify the already approved development and called for photomontages of the development as seen from San Pawl Milqi. Moviment Graffitti is objecting to the application, warning that this is linked to an application by Bonnici Bros to construct its su- permarket in the same area, and to IM's plan for a roundabout to easily divert oncoming traffic to the supermarket. "All of these applications are linked to the same applicant, and it is clear that the applicant is seeking to transform the area through piecemeal applications which will have devastating impacts on the area, destroying ODZ land, as well as affecting the livelihood of farmers whose land could be lost if this application goes through," Graffitti said. How Bonnici Brothers turned an ODZ plot into a storage site near San Pawl Milqi heritage site Burmarrad: illegal storage area paves way for basement parking near San Pawl Milqi LEGEND A. San Pawl Milqi heritage site B. Buffer zone for San Pawl Milqi C. Site of storage area sanctioned in 2017 on which Bonnici has now applied for an underground parking area for trucks D. Site of proposed commercial and residential development, within development zone E. Site of proposed ODZ supermarket F. Site of proposed roundabout proposed by IM Timeline 1988 Bonnici Bros awarded permit to erect wall around site which was illegally used as a storage area 2004 PA twice refuses to regu- larise illegal storage area 2008 Decision to refuse sanc- tioning upheld by Appeals Tri- bunal 2008 New application pre- sented to sanction illegal stor- age area 2017 PA board sanctions ille- gal development on the same site despite case officer's ob- jection 2018 Bonnici Bros apply to develop a supermarket on an adjacent ODZ plot. Application still pending 2018 Bonnici Brothers apply for 104 apartments, 21 shops and a plaza on an adjacent site within the development zone. A zoning application is pending 2020 Infrastructure Malta pre- sents plans to construct new roundabout at the corner be- tween Triq is-Sardin and Triq Burmarrad 2021 Bonnici Bros apply to excavate site for a basement parking

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