Monday, May 20, 2013

Newest threat to century-old Norfolk pine alarms residents

James Debono
Malta Today 20th May 2013

On Friday morning Sliema residents were alarmed after construction engines started removing soil in the close vicinity of a century-old, seven-storey Awrikarja (Norfolk pine) tree located in a garden in Manwel Dimech Street.

In the past few years the tree has survived two planning applications which envisioned its obliteration.

MaltaToday is informed that enforcement officers from the Malta Environment and Planning Authority rushed immediately to the site when notified by residents, who feared damage to the roots of the centenarian tree.

But according to a MEPA spokesperson "the works are in line" with a planning permit issued in 2010. MEPA said no damage to the Awrikarja tree was noted, but it will continue monitoring the works in the coming days.

The permit MEPA referred to did not envision any development in the garden where the tree is located.

In the past, following reports by MaltaToday, MEPA refused two applications which would have resulted in the destruction of the tree.

In the first application, dating back to 2007, the tree's existence was not reported in the case officer report. The oversight was corrected after MaltaToday noted it.

The development application was subsequently turned down.

In the second case, following an outcry by environmental groups, the garden development was limited, and the tree was saved.

In 2013, a fresh application was presented to carry out internal modifications and to add a parking space and a reservoir to the garden.

The initial plans presented to MEPA proposed that the Norfolk pine be uprooted and transplanted to the roof of the parking area, which would probably have resulted in the death of the tree.

Subsequently the plans changed again, and the tree was again spared the axe, as the parking space and reservoir are to be confined to a separate section of the garden. But residents who spoke to MaltaToday expressed concern on Friday that excavations close to the tree would jeopardize its survival.

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