PRESS RELEASE | 16th April 2020
The Malta Youth in Agriculture Foundation is once again expressing concern over the current rural policy which allows for speculative development in Malta’s and Gozo’s sensitive rural areas. One of the latest controversies is the permission granted for the development of a sizeable sheep farm in Bidnija valley.
The Foundation concedes that all the requirements for the acquisition of a full development permit with minor amendments on PA 7946/18 obtained by Mr. Jason Vella, an active full-time young farmer, have been fulfilled in accordance with this vague policy. This has caused an understandable uproar by the local community. Subsequently, the applicant and this building have been mentioned various times in local media, after works ensued in this remote and pristine location. While we will keep encouraging farmers to invest further in their agribusiness, we must make sure that this is done sustainably.
After further investigations, we understand that the two-level higher than normal floor building is set to be a fully operational sheep farm with ancillary facilities. However, taking into consideration the current local standard output, the magnitude of the farm is in our opinion unjustified, even if a dwelling for the farmer might be warranted. The building is extremely conspicuous and lies within a highly valued area, both in terms of agricultural and visual landscape. Some farmers whom we interviewed have expressed disappointment and pointed out that obtaining permits for new development has become relatively easier than getting the approval for amendments on already existing farms.
Most of the new buildings being erected in rural areas over the past years have been much debated by the community as the rural environment keeps on shrinking. Whether the scope of the buildings is residential, industrial or agricultural, the MaYA Foundation has been, and will continue to be at the forefront of campaigns to try and curb unsustainable development including urban sprawl.
The MaYA Foundation is putting forward a few suggestions to ensure sustainable development in rural areas;
- A complete overhaul of the current rural policy which is not primarily aimed at supporting the farming community
- Conversion of the abundant derelict buildings needs to be facilitated
- Authorities need to ensure a more discrete appearance of new buildings complete with proper landscape mitigation measures
- Regular revision of policies and improved consultation processes
- Checking whether the desired scope has been achieved following implementation of the development.