The Church has filed an application to turn an abandoned ODZ site in Rabat into a habitable three-bedroom house with a swimming pool, sparking objections from the environmental watchdog.
In its response to the application, PA 7320/21, the Environment and Resources Authority said the proposed plans were “objectionable” and “environmentally significant”.
Church property administrator Roberto Buontempo filed the request, seeking to make internal structural changes to a farm in the protected area.
According to the request, he wants to demolish and rebuild interior walls to modify the current layout of the rooms, transform a garage into a hall, living room and dining room and replace a metal ceiling with a concrete roof to enlarge the living room.
The Church also plans to remove existing domestic livestock structures and build a tank with a pool above.
It also aims to sanction the area where an approved reservoir has not been built and to organize the adjoining uncultivated fields into a cultivated garden.
Plans submitted by architect Ramon Gauci show an outdoor terrace of 15 square meters outside the kitchen, a terrace of 12 square meters outside the dining room as well as a swimming pool of 20 square meters measuring five by four meters, with a 30- square meter pool area.
According to the request, none of the trees on the site will be uprooted.
What did ERA oppose?
The Triq il-Buskett site is located outside the development zone, within the limits of Rabat, in a category 3 settlement area and a designated area of archaeological importance, according to the Environment and Human Resources Authority. Resources (ERA), which found the proposal “objectionable”. .
“Although ERA is not opposed to the rehabilitation/reconstruction of the existing farm, the proposed interventions are of great environmental concern,” he said.
He noted that the footprint of the dwelling will not be limited to that of the existing structure but will extend further, including the swimming pool, terraces, numerous passageways, stairways, awnings, sheds and the planting of non-native trees, among others.
“The interventions will result in significant occupation of undeveloped rural land, formalization of the site, intensification of ODZ development and a change in the natural state of the site to an urban setting, noting the conversion of existing fields into a landscaped garden “, he mentioned.
He added that the proposed modern design of the dwelling is not compatible with the rural characteristics of the area, given that the site is located in the ODZ and surrounded by agricultural fields.
“The overall proposal is considered excessive and, cumulatively, would contribute to significant occupation of undeveloped rural land, resulting in the proliferation of ODZ built structures as well as negative impacts on the rural character and general natural state of the area. .
“There are also concerns that approval of this application could encourage additional interventions at the site,” ERA said.
How has the Church responded?
The Archdiocese’s administrative secretary, Michael Pace Ross, said Malta weather when contacted there were no fixed plans for accommodation.
“The house could be used for a variety of purposes in the future, although its specific use will be determined at an appropriate time and certainly not until the planning authority process is complete,” said Pace Ross.
He said the farm, which has been around for decades, belongs to the Archbishop’s estate.
In June 2020, the Church discovered that an intruder had used the property and surrounding garden, without a permit, for the storage of hay and animals, including a horse, also committing other illegalities on the spot.
“We immediately filed a police report to evict the intruder, who had also stolen water and electricity from the property, and subsequently commissioned an architect to draw up plans to make the bungalow habitable. “, did he declare.
Pace Ross said the footprint of the building as it stands today, covered by planning permission (PA/5140/99), will remain unchanged.
The surrounding landscape, including trees and shrubs, will be retained and the planting of additional native trees is proposed.
The “small outdoor pool” will not require excavation, he said, to respect the geology, landscape and property features.
In another response, the Church said it proposed to remove the illegal work done by the third party.
He said the application proposes not only to retain the same covered area as the existing dwelling, but that a concrete roof would be replaced with an “insulated wooden ceiling” to reduce the visual impact of the environment.
“The wooden roof section will not be enclosed in any way and is intended to avoid a common situation where a permit is first obtained only for the area to then be covered by a marquee or awnings,” he said. he declares.
“In the meantime, the only additional structure proposed is a wooden shed with a floor area of five square meters which will be used to store the tools necessary for working the land”.
He said the proposed pool would not be an additional extension.
Instead, the proposal suggests a water reservoir, without excavation, on 43% of an area already occupied by a chicken pen. Half of the reservoir would be covered “by a small basin”, with the remaining area containing soil moved from the site and planted with perennials.
Regarding the two planned terraced areas, the Church said one was already used to keep a horse while the other would sit on a platform which would mean the land below would not be compromised.
The planned passages are “few” and have been proposed for the perimeter of the site where the surface rock face is exposed.
The Church denied that there would be additional stairs on the site, saying they already exist and that its proposal “only provides that they would be secured”.
He said it was “wrong” to suggest non-native trees would be planted.
And he added that “a sprawling third-party property sits immediately adjacent to Church-owned land, while other buildings are located nearby.”
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