After a meeting which lasted well over five hours, the Central Link Project was approved by the Planning Authority Board by eight votes in favour and three against.
Board Chairman, Architect Vince Cassar said he had voted in favor of the project but believed that a number of small changes to the project could be carried out, for its amelioration.
Malta Infrastructure Chairman Engineer Frederick Azzopardi, spoke about the serious traffic problem in Attard and explained how the Central Link project addressed the problem of traffic in the area. He said that this project was essential as part of the country’s network was crumbling.
Azzopardi said that roads had been widened, cycle lanes were introduced and a number of trees in the area were also increased. He said that the project would result in an increase of a total of 766 indigenous trees, in addition to better facilities for public transport, less traffic, pollution and traffic accidents.
Azzopardi said that when considering the vehicle increase it found that by 2045, the Central Link project would still be able to withstand the increase in traffic. He explained that in the absence of the project, by 2030 the Attard area would be grid locked. Speaking about environmental studies he said that these showed that black dust would be reduced by 66%.
He said that according to the questionnaire drawn up by Infrastructure Malta, it found that 82% were in favor of the project and 85% thought it would reduce traffic. He explained that the project would take 18 months to complete.
On its part, the Attard Local Council Attard criticised the project due to the loss of agricultural land and the increased pollution. Attard mayor, Stefan Cordina, said the majority of residents were against the project. He said that the application had changed the local plan for the area and that the Council still had far too many reservations about details for this project’s approval. One Attard Councillor said that there was a serious traffic problem and that many residents were suffering with the present state of the roads.
Dr Simon Busuttil spoke on behalf of Attard residents. He said he believed that the permit should not be approved as it would not improve the quality of people’s lives.
He said that the quality of people’s lives should be prioritised in all policies. He said that the alternative to the present situation was not adequate for a number of reasons, amongst these that 1,200 Attard residents would be living on top of a central strip. He also asked by what right could 500 trees be killed, some of which were protected by law.
AD Chairman Carmel Cacopardo, said that instead of addressing the cause, the project addressed its effects. He referred to the transport master plan, which indicated the effect of a lack of long-term planning. He added that despite the project, in a few years time, the situation would be the same is it was today. He underlined the fact that the solution lay in adequate transport policies.
Christian Scerri, a cancer consultant also addressed the meeting. He said that 40% of cancer could be prevented and that the main cause of cancer was obesity and lack of exercise. He said that through this project, the Attard area would not be a pedestrian zone and that highway expansion was only a temporary fix because in 11 years time the situation would be worse than the present one. He said that pollution had a serious impact on health and was the cause of strokes and heart attacks. He proposed that a road be built below street level with the addition of sound barriers. He urged the board to go back to the drawing board for reconsideration.
Moviment Graffitti said that a number of farmers would lose their land. He said that the project had no long-term vision. An Attard farmer said that the project would deal a big blow to agriculture and to farmers who work the land and that the irrigated fields and reservoirs would all be destroyed.
Deputy Head of the Nationalist Party, David Agius, said that European funds could not be used for a bypass and insisted that European funds could be put to better use.
A number of residents from the surrounding localities, spoke in favor of the project saying it would ease traffic problems between Rabat and Imrieħel.