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The site earmarked for the old people’s home. Photo: PA

Fourth attempt for a massive ODZ old people’s home in Għarb

PA flooded with objections to the proposal

The fourth attempt by a developer to build a home for the elderly outside a development zone in Għarb has angered the council, residents and environmental NGOs.

Spread over a large stretch of agricultural land measuring over 5,300 square metres in an area known as il-Gidi, the proposal is being spearheaded by Emanuel Joseph Farrugia, managing director of Victoria-based Trends Development Co. Ltd, operator of St Elizabeth Prime Care Residential and Nursing Home, in Rabat.

According to the plans submitted to the Planning Authority, the applicant is seeking permission to clear the site and carry out excavations “as may be required” to construct the old people’s home over four floors, including a receded floor and two basement levels.

The old people’s home will include 68 rooms, 29 car spaces, a chapel and mortuary, a clinic, an office, a dining area and a gym for use by the residents and support staff.

The applicant withdrew his last application for the same project, filed in 2022, before the case officer had concluded his report.

However, the Agricultural Advisory Committee had objected to this and any project that was not in line with the rural design guidelines.

The environment watchdog had also expressed serious concerns about a proposed old people’s home on the edge of the development zone and mostly located ODZ with surroundings characterised by agricultural fields.

“The proposal would result in take-up of open rural land for the purpose of introduction of an urban-type land use on a site which is characterised by arable fields,” the ERA said.

It said the urban sprawl would have an adverse impact on the rural landscape. “This development is objectionable from an environmental point of view,” the ERA added.

It said an environmental impact assessment and project description statement “would not resolve [its] objection”.

Residents concerned

Residents are also strongly opposing the development in the quaint village, with the PA being flooded with objections to the proposal.

“What they are proposing to do in the sleepy village of Għarb is obscene. It will destroy the very fabric of the place. The infrastructure of the village simply can’t sustain a monstrosity on an ODZ. The old people’s home is just a cunning ruse, a loophole allowing them on pristine ODZ land,” one resident said when contacted.

The Għarb council strongly opposed the fresh application, saying it was concerned about the height of the planned building as well the fact that it was outside the development zone and taking up agricultural land. 

It said the development would lead to significantly increased traffic congestion and have a negative effect on many of the already narrow streets in the area. The council is also collecting signatures for a petition against the project.

The Farrugia family’s first application in 1994 was rejected by the Planning Authority in 1996. The decision was confirmed on appeal in 2001. Another application presented in 2008 was withdrawn 10 years later. Another one filed in 2022 was also withdrawn.

News source: Times of Malta