Infrastructure Malta says it had consulted the Zebbug local council on the repair and resurfacing of a rural road in WiedQirda, adding that the latter had not objected to the project.
The Local Council and mayor Malcolm Paul Galea this week raised objections to the project and appealed to the roads agency to leave the valley as it is.
Controversy has erupted over the project, which has already seen the removal of a number of trees and shrubs to widen the country lane. Earlier this week, a truck carrying asphalt overturned when part of the road collapsed, sending its load flying onto a carob tree below. The incident led to heightened criticism of the project, which is taking place along a ridge in the most picturesque part of the protected valley.
Sources have told The Malta Independent that the works were likely being carried out to ‘improve’ access to a nearby fireworks factory, which started operating in recent weeks. They said, however, that emergency vehicles can still access the area easily with the road in its current form.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, the Zebbug mayor said the Environment Resources Authority (ERA) and Infrastructure Malta (IM) had pledged to clean up the spilt asphalt, but insisted that the valley should remain a valley.
“That truck should not have been there in the first place. I appreciate that works are being carried out to improve access for farmers and for those who visit the valley, and I understand that the road has been widened, but I cannot accept the removal of protected carob trees to make way for asphalt,” he wrote.
The mayor appealed for rubble walls to be erected and for the road to be left as it is or to at least be covered in gravel, not asphalt. “It makes more sense and less damage. Let’s leave the valley as a valley and not build a road through it.”
The Zebbug council also said Thursday that it has formally written to the authorities to halt the works so that the road is not widened. “The plans to asphalt the road should be discarded,” it said, adding that alternative material should be used.
However, when replying to questions by this newsroom, Infrastructure Malta said the council had been consulted prior to the start of the works and there were no objections.
“The repair and maintenance works in this road are being carried out in accordance with an applicable Transport Malta road works permit,” a spokesperson for IM said. “Before this permit was issued, the Authority consulted several stakeholders, including the Zebbug Local Council. There were no objections to the repair and resurfacing of this road.”
Mayor says he was not consulted
Speaking to this newsroom, the mayor said he has never been contacted on this issue by Infrastructure Malta since he took on the role in June. The mayor said he had also confirmed, from council records, that no communication to this effect had taken place under his tenure. It is unclear at this stage whether IM had consulted with the previous local council.
IM said the damaged road will be repaired in the coming weeks, after which all debris and asphalt on the side of the road will be cleaned. The works are set to continue, despite the council’s pleas. “Infrastructure Malta is working to complete these road works as soon as possible, whilst ensuring to minimise any impact on nearby agricultural lands and the nearby valley.”
The Malta Independent also reported that the road works were passing through a privately-owned area. In fact, the area where the truck overturned forms part of this land.
Asked about this, Infrastructure Malta said: “The ongoing works in the indicated road form part of the agency’s investment in rural roads, to improve the quality of countryside roads used mainly by farmers to access their agricultural lands. The road was earmarked for resurfacing in 2018. Parts of it were completed earlier this year and last year. Works include the removal of the existing tarmacked surface, repairs to its foundations and the laying of a narrow strip of new asphalt. The countryside road in question has been used as a public road for many years. In fact, the land in question is subject to an expropriation initiated over two decades ago.”
Original article found on The Malta Independent