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No agreement on expropriation compensation for Tal-Balal road widening

Work is moving ahead despite no planning permit and no consultation

9,000 square metres of terrain will be lost to the road extension. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

9,000 square metres of terrain will be lost to the road extension. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

As work to widen Tal-Balal Road forges ahead without a planning permit, it has now emerged that there are not even agreements in place on the compensation due to the owners of the land taken up for the project.

A total of 9,000 square metres of terrain will be lost to the road extension, some of which is agricultural land.

This information was confirmed by a spokesman of Infrastructure Malta, the state agency overseeing these works, in reply to a series of questions sent by The Sunday Times of Malta.

Launched at the start of last month, the project aims to ease traffic congestion around Mater Dei Hospital and the University of Malta, particularly for vehicles approaching from San Ġwann and Naxxar. The Transport Ministry is promising that this will result in a reduction of up to 40 per cent in travel time and lower air pollution.

The road is being widened with new lanes in both directions.

Controversy over the project erupted when it transpired that work to flatten adjacent land outside the road’s existing footprint had started even though no development permit had yet been issued. The decision also prompted the Environment Resources Authority to express concerns.

Expropriation values are determined once this process is concluded by the relevant authorities

Meanwhile, the mandatory public consultation period dictated by planning laws, intended for any objectors to make their submissions, only started a few days ago with the project already well under way. It will last for just eight days, until next Wednesday.

The rush to complete the project has raised eyebrows not only from a planning perspective but also in terms of whether administrative and procurement procedures have been fully respected. Very little information on this aspect had been divulged so far from the official channels.

In reply to questions, an Infrastructure Malta spokesman said the Tal-Balal road widening project would cost €4 million and the contract was awarded to three contractors – V&C Contractors Ltd, Schembri Barbros and Asfaltar Ltd.

No specific call for tenders was issued for this project and Infrastructure Malta said the contract had not been awarded by direct order. The contractors, it said, had been engaged under the “roadworks framework agreement” awarded following a public call. Under this agreement, the government can engage contractors directly without the need to issue a tender each time, to save time.

As for the amount of land which will be required to increase the road’s footprint, Infrastructure Malta said this would amount to 8,800 square metres.

This land, running along the side of Tal-Balal Road, includes disturbed areas such as storage yards for industrial equipment and building supplies, manufacturing plants, paved areas leading to private properties, sites earmarked for development in the 2006 rationalisation scheme and agricultural land, the spokesman said.

However, no exact figure was provided on the amount of land situated outside the development zone nor on the expropriation costs to be incurred by taxpayers.

While pointing out that most of the land in question is owned by the government, the spokesman said that expropriation and termination of government lease processes with the owners, tenants and authorities concerned had been launched earlier this summer.

“Expropriation values are determined once this process is concluded by the relevant authorities,” Infrastructure Malta said.   

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