Roadworks at L-Imselliet, on the outskirts of Mġarr, have fuelled concerns that virgin land is being sacrificed to widen an existing country path being paved with concrete.
Questions have also been asked over the safeguards being taken to preserve cart ruts, mature carob trees and rubble walls in the area.
A Transport Malta spokesman said yesterday some of its projects to improve traffic flows and increase road safety were being implemented this summer to ease the impact of increased traffic ahead of the scholastic year. The area around the two schools at L-Imselliet was identified among the those that needed to be improved, he said, adding that during morning and early afternoon peaks long queues blocked the busy road and restricted access to the schools.
He noted that the schools had only one access road, which was inadequate for the number of people going there every day, apart from potential difficulties in emergency situations.
The spokesman said another access point for the schools would be provided by redeveloping an old lane without encroaching on undisturbed land, rural structures or vegetation, allowing for a better traffic flow.
Transport Malta, he said, was committed to constantly working to strike a balance between maintaining adequate road networks that met users’ requirements, environment protection and the interests of the community and other stakeholders.
Nonetheless, some, including environmentalist Alan Deidun, have questioned the utility of the works, arguing that traffic would be deviated back to Mġarr bypass, thus only shifting the bottleneck by a few hundred metres.
“What’s the point of having a road which bypasses a bypass,” a student at the Faculty of the Built Environment at the University of Malta commented in reaction to Prof. Deidun’s latest update on his Facebook account.
Prof. Deidun sounded the alarm bells last month on his Facebook account, questioning the reason behind such work, which in his words, “destroyed the rural fabric of this area”.
He also questioned the legality of the project, claiming it was only covered by a development notification order, a fast-track procedure used for minor applications like internal alterations.
Stretching over a distance of about 1.5 kilometres, the country path links the Mġarr bypass to the San Andrea and San Anton schools, which are only accessible from further up the arterial thoroughfare.
This newspaper reported in April that the government was considering various measures to ease the school-related traffic congestion in the morning and afternoon.
At the time, the Transport Malta spokesman pointed out that, following a traffic impact assessment, they had submitted plans to the planning watchdog that were being screened due to the presence of archaeological remains and possible expropriation issues.
An on-site visit this week found that works were at an advanced stage, with large tracts already covered in concrete or with grit. Furthermore, the first 500 metres adjacent to the Mġarr bypass, also leading to a number of ecological farms, had been covered with tarmac.
Questions sent to the Planning Authority by this newspaper have not yet been answered.