Marsaxlokk plans to build community centre inside school garden irks councillor

Marsaxlokk council wants to build community centre on 920sq.m of garden space in the locality’s primary school that will impact a number of trees

The Marsaxlokk local council wants to build a community centre on 920sq.m of garden space in the locality’s primary school that will impact a number of trees.

The planning application as proposed foresees the “transplanting” of 37 trees including olive trees, cypress trees, pomegranate trees, Judas trees and pecan nut trees.

The community centre will consist of three floors, one of which will be receded. It will house the local council office, a social security office, a post office, a library and a public hall. A roof garden with benches and 14 trees is being proposed on top of the offices. The council has approved the project with three votes against two.

PN councillor Janice Chetcuti, who voted against the development in the school garden, says she cannot even fathom the idea of building over a school garden. “This is one of the few schools in Malta which is endowed with a beautiful garden and it simply defies logic that the council takes a part of it to build it over... One would expect a local council to be vociferous in protecting this garden rather than being behind its destruction.”

Chetcuti pointed out that the garden is regularly used by students to “relax, spend some time outside the class and even used therapeutically during allocated hours during which students actually sow different plants.”

Chetcuti believes that another location could have easily been found for the community centre. Alternative locations which could have been considered are dilapidated buildings in the Roman Port Area, where the locality’s health centre was recently developed; and the Vendome Tower itself, which according to Chetcuti would have been ideal to host the local council.

Elenia Desira, the deputy mayor of the locality who was elected on the Labour ticket, had also voted against when the issue was discussed in the council in February 2021.

But mayor Steven Grech told MaltaToday that no existing buildings are available in the locality to house this project. He pointed out that the current council office which is rented consists of only three rooms.

“Some have suggested the Vendome tower as an alternative but this would pose problems with regards to accessibility,” the mayor said.

He also explained that the project provides the council with the opportunity of relocating different community facilities into one building.

The mayor also pointed out that no ODZ land is being taken up and the height of the new building is limited. He insisted the trees will be relocated to a roof garden, which will still be enjoyed by the public.