MEPA Watch | Sunday, 15 February 2009

Robert Musumeci on the Mosta football ground saga

Case Details
A planning application to introduce a spectator stand at the Mosta Football Pitch was submitted to MEPA. The stand borders Triq il- Manwella and faces a row of terraced dwellings on the other side of the street. The proposed construction would create a relatively high wall facing the terraced residences.
The Central Malta Local Plan designates the said area as a Public Recreation and Sports Area. From the proposed drawings, it appears that the height of the said wall is equivalent to 4 metres and topped with a wire fencing, having a further height of approximately another 4 metres. The drawings also indicate that the design of the wall incorporates a mixture of rendered motifs and colours hoping to soften the barren mass facing the residents.
On its part, the Mosta Local Council did not object to this application provided the maximum height of the wall is limited to 13 courses. However, apart from the Local Council’s reservations, there were a number of objectors who insisted that an Environmental Impact Assessment should be carried out in order to assess the visual impact.

Case Officer’s views
The case officer pointed out that the local plan has designated the site in question as a Public Recreation and Sports Area. This is in fact regulated by CMLP policy CG 18 (Public Recreation and Sports Area), which allows developments and facilities being complementary to the sports area.
In his comments, the case officer underlined that the proposed development was acceptable on the pretext that it sought to improve the current sports facilities. According to the case officer, the proposed boundary wall was not likely to increase the visual impact within the surrounding area, since the site was already committed with a football pitch.

DCC’s decision
Following a heated debate which was held on Wednesday 11th February 2009 in the presence of a number of vociferous objectors, the DCC deferred the case, asking the architect in charge of the application to revisit the proposal.

ROBERT MUSUMECI’s observations
It is clear that Local Plan policy CG 18 (Public Recreation and Sports Area) places a strong presumption against any development which would result in the loss of Green Areas, Public Recreational Areas and Sports Areas.
Ut sic, the proposed wall will not create the loss of any existing sports facilities. If anything, the proposed works will certainly aim to upgrade the running of the current sport facilities.
Consequently, it may safely be argued that the proposed works are not in conflict with the spirit of policy CG 18. In more clear terms, it would not make sense to state that the proposed wall would result in the loss of the green area.
The issue under consideration is certainly related to the visual amenity of the area which could possibly arise due to the introduction of the relatively high wall being proposed just a few metres facing a row of terraced dwellings.
In the circumstances, the DCC must consider whether Structure Plan Policy BEN 1 is safeguarded (BEN 1 provides that development will not normally be permitted, if the proposal is likely to have a deleterious impact on existing adjacent uses, because of visual intrusion, noise, vibration, atmospheric pollution, unusually high traffic generation, unusual operating times, or any other characteristic which in the opinion of the Planning Authority would constitute bad neighborliness).
On the other hand, it is equally pertinent to state that visual impacts, unlike other considerations (such as social and economic impacts) are pretty straightforward to evaluate without the need to commission an environmental impact assessment.
One must therefore assess whether the proposed wall facing the residences is likely to have an intrusive impact (as defined in Policy BEN 1) on the facing residences due their close proximity.


Any comments?
If you wish your comments to be published in our Letters pages please click button below.
Please write a contact number and a postal address where you may be contacted.



Copyright © MediaToday Co. Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 9016, Malta, Europe
Managing editor Saviour Balzan | Tel. ++356 21382741 | Fax: ++356 21385075 | Email