Many local residents of Santa Lucija didn’t object to plans for the Tal-Barrani underpass because local and central government failed to tell them what Infrastructure Malta wanted to do.
That’s the view presented by the Save Santa Lucija Open Spaces Network (SSLOSN) in relation to the jogging track woodland that will be removed in order to create a new roundabout and two-lane tunnel underpass.
They say that the Local Council did not act to dispel misperceptions among the public that the impact of the planning application submitted in October 2017 would mean more than simply removing some of the trees from Tal-Barrani road and the roundabout.
‘They never imagined that the application was proposing to destroy a huge part of the woodland surrounding the jogging track inaugurated a mere four and a half months earlier by the government for the cost of €90,000.’
The jogging track had previously been opened by a host of representatives from government, local council and from Sports Malta in May 2017.
SSLOSN says that Santa Lucija council had been ‘informed and consulted’ by the Planning Authority about the application but ‘chose not to disseminate any information about this application to residents.’
They also say that the council had not held a ‘public consultation about this application, despite being legally empowered to do so if it chose to. No plans illustrating what was being proposed for the woodland were fixed in any of the Local Council display windows.’
The statement from the NGO comes just over a week since works on the underpass began.
The first stages of the project involved the felling of trees on the jogging track.
Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar had warned last year that the project would involve the removal of a number of trees, something Infrastructure Malta and the Environmental Resources Authority had more recently said would be mitigated with the replanting or replacement of over 2,000 trees.
Within a development area not a green-lung
SSLOSN’s representative Catherine Polidano spoke earlier this week to Newsbook.com.mt at a vigil for the trees and jogging track.
She explained that the town of Santa Lucija had originally been built and planned with open spaces and gardens in mind. She said that they served a specific function and were not assigned to be built up.
‘The route of Tal-Barrani underpass should be within a development area not a green lung,’ she explained.
Proposed alteration to protect public health
SSLOSN’s statement goes on to call on the government to, ‘make an exception and modify the Tal-Barrani Tunnel entrance so that the Sta Lucija woodland would remain for posterity. Not only because in fact there were over a thousand objections to the application. Or because certain government action misled residents of neighbouring towns. But most fundamentally, to protect the health of Malta’s people, including the health of over 600 children attending school opposite the Sta Lucija woodland.’