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The Għal Għawdex coalition has asked the Prime Minister as well as other relevant authorities to meet them to discuss how their eight-point plan to safeguard Gozo can be implemented. Photo: Daniel Cilia

Gozitan coalition asks for moratorium on new ODZ planning applications

Calls for suspension of policy that allows extended building heights

A coalition of Gozitan entities has asked the government to place a moratorium on new planning applications outside of the development zone and pause planning policies that allow for extended building heights until a regional plan designed specifically for Gozo can be developed. 

In a press conference on Friday, the Għal Għawdex coalition, a group of NGOs, local government entities and business lobbies, presented an eight-point plan to safeguard Gozo’s natural and built environment “in the face of rampant construction” and demanded that authorities take immediate action to remedy the situation. 

Chiefly, the group is asking that a new regional plan, as well as design policies, are developed specifically for Gozo to ensure that the fabric of Gozitan society is respected while sustainable development and overall prosperity on the island continued to be promoted.

Responsible architecture

This, they said, should include the concept of responsible architecture, the preservation of traditional village cores and ridge skylines as well as the protection of the coastal environment while guaranteeing access to all parts of the coast to the public at large. 

In the interim, the group is also asking for the removal of fiscal incentives on the sale of buildings and land to be developed into apartments and for the retention and extension of incentives on the sale and purchase of property in the UCA where the property is guaranteed to be restored without subdivision.

This, they added, should be extended to incentivise the same activity with all vernacular and post-war properties outside of the UCA to encourage development that retains the character of traditional architecture in Gozo and discourages the extension of building heights. 

Financial incentives to encourage the restoration of large traditional properties, converting them into residential homes or high-quality boutique hotels, on the condition that the fabric of the traditional property as well the existing building heights be retained, should also be introduced, they said. 

Għal Għawdex also wants to designate the whole of Gozo as a design priority area, which would enforce stricter architectural standards and use of traditional materials for all new buildings.

It is also calling for the strict enforcement of a 150-metre buffer zone around all historical buildings and scheduled monuments.

This, it added, should seek to eliminate all loopholes and force development in such areas to respect the existing building heights. The use of summary applications in such areas should also be prohibited and only full development applications should be submitted in such areas. 

Parking

The coalition said the development and sale of new apartment blocks without adequate parking facilities should be made illegal and it should be compulsory for homeowners to purchase at least one parking space with each unit where possible.

On top of these proposals, the group said enhanced efforts should be made to enforce existing rules and policies related to planning, which, if properly enforced by the PA, would already lead to better development habits in the region, they said. 

Għal Għawdex called for urgent meetings with Prime Minister Robert Abela as well as Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri, Finance Ministery Clyde Caruana, Environment Minister Miriam Dalli, and the chairs of the executive council and the Planning Board and the Planning Authority to discuss a way forward to implementing this plan.

A change in policy, he said, was needed to take streetscapes, design and building materials into better consideration.

Using limestone instead of bricks would create more aesthetically pleasing buildings and complement the Gozitan context, particularly for the back façades of buildings on ODZ boundaries,” Camilleri said at the time.