NGOs appeal to Mepa to refuse permit for Lidl supermarket in Xewkija
An application for the construction of Lidl supermarket on unbuilt fields in Xewkija Valley is to be decided tomorrow, the NGOs Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar , Friends of the Earth, Gozo University Group, Malta Organic Agriculture Movement, Nature Trust Malta and Ramblers' Association said.
They said the decision on this case had been deferred in spite of the fact that members of Mepa's Environment and Planning Commission found the site too small to accommodate an outlet this size, with adequate parking and maneuvering space.
The organisations said that during the last hearing, FAA raised the point that Mepa regulations recommended that impact retail assessment was carried out for the opening of large supermarkets such as this one in Gozo.
However, this was ignored by the Mepa EPC board, even though the supermarket would have significant impact on other retail outlets in Gozo and on local residents, especially elderly ones, who would be the most affected by the closure of small local grocers.
Registered objectors, they noted were not informed of the submission of new plans, as was their legal right.
The six environment groups said they always maintained that open agricultural land should not be built upon when empty buildings were available, alternatively by demolishing disused or dilapidated structures in urban areas.
This was also raised by the EPC board which also pointed out that the local plan guidelines for this area did not include retail outlets.
"The proposed site on the way to Victoria was a highly visible valley with Xagħra hill as a backdrop. What ruins the environment also ruins Gozo's tourism potential, and must at all costs be avoided.
"Mepa has already blighted Malta with past mistaken decisions, as we have recently seen in the cases of Wied il-Ghasel and the Madliena Ridge project.
"Since MEPA maintains that these past permits cannot be revoked, let us not repeat such mistakes.
"Building a supermarket in Xewkija valley next to an ECO-Gozo water catchment area, instead of in existing empty building, violates the principles of the National Environment Plan and every tenet of sustainability: environmental, social and economic.
"The outcome of this application will indicate whether all the talk of sustainability and ECO Gozo is to remain talk, or to become a genuine political commitment," the organisations said.