MEPA contradicting own policies on Lidl Gozo? - FAA
Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar (FAA) said that certain news reports on the Xewkija Lidl Retail Impact Assessment recently drawn up by Lidl’s consultants has been one-sided, only quoting the parts favourable to the developer and conveniently omitting the negative impacts.
The Assessment confirms that the setting up of Lidl in Gozo will divert €1.81 million from grocery stores in Rabat and, more significantly, €3.17 million from village grocery stores. This does not take into account traders in white goods and hardware stores that will be impacted by Lidl. Already several establishments in Gozo are risking closure due to the downturn. Is MEPA going to approve an eyesore on a greenfield valley site that will cause more closures in built-up areas?
The socio-environmental impact of the predicted closure of grocery outlets all over Gozo will be an enormous blow to elderly people and non-drivers both in terms of access to local stores as well as in terms of socialisation. These shops are essential to the life of every village and of the vulnerable sectors of society – lose them and we have lost another precious element of urban conservation areas (UCAs).
MEPA urban conservation policies state: “Small shops including grocers, bakers and household goods, contributed much to the character and vitality of these areas as places to live. In order to encourage the rehabilitation and re-use of UCAs and to reduce the number of disused and underused buildings it will be desirable to support as wide a range of uses within historic areas as possible.” FAA therefore asks how MEPA can issue such policies and at the same time recommend for approval a permit that will wipe out the very village shops that the policies seek to encourage.
At a time when Eco-Gozo aims to increase employment in green jobs, it has been estimated that this project which it is indicated will employ just 12 employees, will cause over 100 Gozitans to lose their jobs, increasing the exodus of the young generation to Malta.
There is no reason why such a development should be located on an agricultural site. This development goes against Structure Plan Policy Ben2: “development will not normally be permitted if, it is incompatible with the good urban design, natural heritage, and environmental characteristics of existing or planned adjacent uses, and is unlikely to maintain the good visual integrity of the area in which it is located”. The impact of the parking of some 50 cars on the supermarket roof will give this area, known for its greenery and frequented by every tourist arriving in Gozo, the appearance of an industrial zone. The fact that the area designation was changed from showrooms attracting a few cars a day, to ‘Mixed Uses’, does not make a development generating so much traffic, appropriate close to an Eco-Gozo site. This project redirecting shopping patterns to an out-of-town centre will significantly increase traffic and vehicle emissions.
No impact assessments were carried out even though cars accessing Lidl will be driving over the petrol storage tanks of an adjacent petrol station that stocks enough fuel for nearly the whole island, as it supplies most Gozitan petrol stations, industries and hotels.
If approved this outlet will inevitably be increased by satellite shops, merging Xewkija with Victoria just as villages in Malta have merged together, forming one large conurbation. This violates MEPA policy: “It is important that settlements retain their distinctive identity and contact with the countryside around them. This identity is easily lost through ribbon development along the roads between settlements, allowing them to coalesce.”
Ultimately, why ruin a green valley when Lidl could occupy the empty premises of Malta Dairy Products or the ex-ETC Centre right next door, the FAA asked.