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MALTATODAY 19 June 2022

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4 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 19 JUNE 2022 NEWS JAMES DEBONO ANOTHER controversial de- velopment linked to a company owned by mega-developer Jo- seph Portelli, this time consist- ing of 54 apartments overlook- ing the scenic Taż-Żejta valley in Rabat, Gozo, is heading for ap- proval after receiving the green light of the Planning Authority's case officer (planning directo- rate). A decision on this develop- ment due on Wednesday was postponed by the PA's plan- ning commission to 8 July, following strong objections presented by architect Joan- na Spiteri Staines on behalf of residents, including Mr Justice Grazio Mercieca. The proposed five-storey apartment block for 54 apart- ments and 36 garages, is being proposed along a watercourse which serves as a recreation- al area for residents and their children, just 9 metres away from the proposed develop- ment. Thomas Grech, who claims full ownership of the site, is proposing the development. Grech is operations manger of PRA Construction Limited, a company owned by Joseph Portelli, Daniel Refalo and Mark Agius. The case officer claims the proposed development is with- in the development zone and does not protrude onto the valley or ODZ land, and fol- lows the building height lim- itation approved in a zoning application approved in 2011. Although the site includes an existing, unfinished build- ing approved before the Plan- ning Authority even existed, while being the subject of an enforcement order, a large part of the site is still undevel- oped and acts as a buffer zone between residences and the countryside. The Gozo local plan actually limits development in the ar- ea to two floors, an additional three courses and a receded floor, and includes a clause that specifies that the no other poli- cy can override this stipulation. But as proposed, the devel- opment reaches a maximum height of five floors along a steeped gradient along Triq is-Sellum. Development in breach of policy And although the area was included in development zones in the infamous extension of building boundaries of 2006, objectors contend that as pro- posed, the development is still in breach of the local plan and the Design Guidelines issued in 2015. Notably, according to Policy GZ-EDGE-1, the massing and facades of the new develop- ment, which overlooks ODZ areas, should be designed "in such a manner as to respect the traditional edge of settlement skylines." The development includes excavations in an area which overlies a buffer zone for a ground water protection zone. Residents warned that the val- ley collects large amount of rainwater from Xaghra, Xewk- ija, Victoria and other nearby localities. By building a sub- station and garages under road levels, flooding problems could be exacerbated. Noting that the site is locat- ed at the edge of development zone, the Environment and Resources Authority lament- ed the absence of landscaping plans to blend the development into the surrounding rural landscape and serve as an eco- logical corridor between the valley and the apartment block. But the case officer dismissed this proposal, noting that the parameters for the develop- ment were already set in the zoning application. The new elevations appear to have 'satisfied' the landscap- ing requirements requested by ERA by adding potted plants to the balconies. And so far, ERA has not been reconsulted, ren- dering the regulatory body that should be regularly consulted on a site of High Landscape Protection, toothless. The zoning application ap- proved in 2011 had approved a cul de sac at the end of a road flanking the valley to facilitate new residential developments while imposing a height limi- tation of three floors "without basement or penthouses" on the site of the existing building. New Portelli project threatens Taz-Zejta valley Development in an area of High Landscape Protection next to scenic watercourse frequented by Gozitan families, is being recommended for approval

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