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MT 18 September 2016

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2 maltatoday, SUNDAY, 18 SEPTEMBER 2016 News Police sent in to stop Manoel Island MATTHEW AGIUS THE gates at Manoel Island re- mained shut on Saturday, scup- pering plans for a clean-up of the derelict site by Kamp Emerġenza Ambjent activists. Development consortium MIDI had previously said it would be tak- ing action to block access to activ- ists seeking to have free passage to the public foreshore. On Friday it threatened the Gzira local council with legal action in a bid to discour- age councillors from encouraging any attempt to access the public foreshore, kept sealed for the past 16 years. Although angered at finding the gate locked, Gzira mayor Conrad Borg Manché urged calm, dissuad- ing the assembled activists from do- ing anything that would escalate the situation. At least 11 police officers, includ- ing two police inspectors and assis- tant commissioner of police Martin Sammut, ensured that the law was obeyed by all present. The assistant commissioner assured MaltaToday that the police presence was normal practise for large gatherings and was there solely to ensure that pub- JAMES DEBONO THE Planning Authority's appeals board (Environment and Planning Review Tribu- nal) has paved the way for the construction of four semi-detached villas near the Tal- Mirakli windmill in Triq Annibale Preca in Lija. The development had been rejected by the PA board, chaired by Vince Cassar in 2015, because it would result in the loss of a sub- stantial part of the existing orange grove and because of its impact on the adjacent windmill – which will be preserved. The PA claimed that this development would have eliminated a "green lung" for the area. Cassar himself had voiced objections to the proposal, arguing that the development could only be permitted if planning policies were "twisted". On that occasion the PA board voted unani- mously against the development. The development was also deemed to defy a PA circular which precludes any development extending further than 30 metres into back gardens. But in its sentence, the EPRT chaired by Martin Saliba, conclud- ed that this planning rule applied to green lungs in densely developed urban areas, and not to what it de- scribed was a villa area character- ised by low-density development. The tribunal also remarked that only 40% of the site would be devel- oped and that enough space would remain undeveloped between the houses and the windmill to protect its set- ting. The EPRT rebutted objector Roderick Chalmers's (former Bank of Valletta chair- man) claim that the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage had been misled by pho- tomontages that omitted structures being proposed on the roof of the development, when it gave its blessing to the development. The tribunal argued that the Superintend- ence also had access to plans show- ing this development, and that the roof structures were reclined and not visible from the particular angle shown in the photomontage. While ordering the PA to revoke its earlier refusal, the tribunal or- dered the developer to present new plans to include a 3m-wide front garden adjacent to an alley. The development is being pro- posed by entrepreneur Keith Attard Portughes. The developers are com- mitted to replant the trees uprooted from the grove. The appeals tribunal is composed of planner Martin Saliba, Labour candidate Simon Micallef Stafrace and Malta Freeport chairman and political appointee Robert Sarsero. The EPRT has the final say on development applications on which an appeal has been presented. The same board will be taking a decision on the pending ap- peal against the Townsquare high-rise devel- opment in Sliema and a proposed old peo- ple's home in a quarry in San Gwann's Wied Ghomor. Tribunal approves stables refused in 2011 and 2006 In another controversial decision the same board also approved the construction of five stables and paddocks over 350 square metres in Rabat's Lunzjata area. It also sanctioned a hay store and 295 square metre track that had been illegally developed. A previous application presented by an- Manoel Island clean-up by Gzira mayor, residents and Kamp Emergenza Ambjent activists stopped as police sent in to stop trespassing Appeals board overturns refusal of villas in historical As proposed: the semi detached villas. Right: the grove where development will take place

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