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Lidl plan for Gozo slowed by traffic

Plans to build the first Lidl supermarket in Gozo were put on hold yesterday after a planning commission asked the developers to address safety issues for vehicles entering and leaving the site.

The matter was raised by commission member Bjorn Bonello who expressed his concern that the plans for the area could create a danger spot for drivers entering and leaving.

The large refrigerated trucks transporting supplies to the German supermarket chain might also not be able to manoeuvre inside the site, creating further problems, he pointed out yesterday during a hearing at Hexagon House. While pointing out that the traffic impact reports were “professionally done”, Mr Bonello said he was aware the applicant was “restricted because of the layout”.

The chain, which already has five supermarkets in Malta, has earmarked a site of 4,800 square metres for the development.

Of this, 70 per cent falls within the development limits of the Xewkija Industrial Estate, while a remaining triangular area is ODZ (outside development zone).

The supermarket structure will take up around 50 per cent of the area while the scheduled part will have “soft landscaping” through planting scattered trees such as lavender, rosemary, bay laurel, Mediterranean elm, olive trees, Judas trees, mastic trees and myrtle.

Meanwhile, another board member pointed out that the local planning policies marked the area for “mixed use” but did not specifically mention supermarkets – unlike other policies.

Deputy chairman Franco Montesin said the issue would be referred to the local planning unit to provide guidance on whether planning policies allowed the development of a supermarket.

During the hearing, environmentalists Astrid Vella and Carmel Cacopardo raised objections to the development, saying it would affect a natural storm water culvert nearby.

“We are not against the development but other alternatives should have been looked into,” Ms Vella said.

However, architect Edwin Mintoff said the company had long been looking for a good property in Gozo.

Also, the culvert, which was not even on his client’s property, was completely blocked and unused. “They are proposing to take responsibility for it, keeping it clean and covered to ensure no debris falls into it,” he said.

Meanwhile, in a statement, the planning authority contested a number of “incorrect and misleading details” that, for example, the area where the supermarket would be built was scheduled or protected.

“There is no such protective designation as an Eco Gozo scheduled water conservation site and the area is adjacent to an artificial watercourse channel and not within the watercourse,” it said.

The existing channel would continue to function and water conservation in the area would not be significantly affected.

Also, the valley bed, as shown in photographs released by NGOs, was not within the site, which could not be considered as virgin open land.

The next hearing will take place on June 1.

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