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Residents pin their hopes on PA to save Wied Incita

Attard residents have reported that excavation works at Bilom’s Wied Incita quarry have reduced in intensity

matthew_agius
Matthew Agius
23 August 2016, 8:19am
On Saturday, the Democratic party backed a proposal to turn Wied Incita into an ecological park
On Saturday, the Democratic party backed a proposal to turn Wied Incita into an ecological park "to be enjoyed by Maltese and Gozitans alike"
Attard residents have reported that excavation works at Bilom’s Wied Incita quarry have reduced in intensity since MaltaToday reported on the plight of nearby residents, but so far no official reaction has been forthcoming about the residents’ plight.

The quarry became the subject of national attention after Bilom proposed the development of a 158,000 square metre industrial park for small- and medium-sized enterprises, topped by a solar farm, on the site it currently occupies. 

One of the quarry’s neighbours had told MaltaToday last week that although quarry operations should have stopped, the noise of pneumatic drills had continued to disturb residents’ repose. 

The premises were still guarded by a watchman and the mound of debris was growing larger, residents said, and the noise and dust pollution from quarrying posed a health risk to neighbours.

Yesterday, the Democratic Party (PD) backed a proposal to turn Wied Incita into an ecological park “to be enjoyed by Maltese and Gozitans alike.”

The party led by Marlene Farrugia said it supports a proposal put forward by leftist organisation Zmienijietna, saying that by restoring and returning Wied Incita back to the people “this government would be mitigating the environmental damage inflicted both by the previous administration and by the current administration’s poor environmental policies.”

Farrugia’s partner and Labour whip Godfrey Farrugia this week lambasted Bilom’s plans. “Wied Incita has been raped by quarry owners, rendering its habitat lifeless... the irregularities are well known,” Farrugia, who is an MP for the constituency that includes neighbouring Zebbug, said.

Bilom’s proposal for the addition of a “family recreational park” was met with derision in some quarters, who felt it to be little more than thinly-disguised tokenism. The controversial plans have riled neighbouring residents and environmental groups who fear the plans would turn the once pristine valley into a new industrial complex. 

Bilom are proposing the development of a huge industrial park for small- and medium-sized enterprises equipped with an overlying solar farm over 158,000 square metres on the site currently occupied by the quarries.

Use of the land had originally been granted for agricultural purposes, with the caveat that quarrying operations may be carried out on the half of the site that is farthest from Attard, but this condition was later removed. 

Other conditions included the building of a boundary wall, the planting of 100 trees and that the land be “reclaimed into good arable land in areas on which quarrying has ceased to be carried out... on any particular area measuring at least one-half tomna.”

The half-tomna specification was also excised at a later stage. The reclamation, reconstruction and protective works had to be carried out within three years of the cessation of quarrying operations.

Attard local councillor Ralph Attard, basing himself on a 1966 contract which transferred the grant to Rosario Portanier, managing director of Rowey and Company Ltd, argued that the leaseholders had violated the conditions of the original contract of emphyteusis by failing to rehabilitate the quarry site.

But a closer reading of the handwritten contract reveals that the government had granted the use of the 55 original tumoli, by title of temporary emphyteusis to Arturo Vella, for 99 years in 1915. The 99-year period would have ended and with it, the emphyteutical grant, in 2014.

That would have left the land free to be sold into private ownership by the government – usually to the occupier – who would then become a full owner.

This relatively common occurrence with old emphyteutical concessions, would be the most likely scenario in this case and leaves a refusal of the application by the Planning Authority as the picturesque valley’s last hope of survival.

matthew_agius
Court reporter Matthew Agius is a Legal Procurator and Commissioner for Oaths. Prior to re...
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