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PA 18-year-old refusal hangs on latest attempt to re-develop Dingli site

An application foresees the demolition of the existing licensed explosives factory in Dingli and its re-development into a resort and spa, but the PA set a precedent by refusing a similar development 17 years ago

James Debono
30 June 2017, 8:10am
The explosives factory in Dingli
The explosives factory in Dingli
An application presented on 1 June – two days before the general election – foresees the demolition of the existing licensed explosives factory in Dingli and its re-development into a resort and spa.

But the PA had already set a precedent by refusing a similar development 17 years ago.

The original permit for the development for the explosives factory had been issued in 1977. Another application presented in 1994 to erect a store in the existing factory was also refused.

In 2000, both the PA and its appeals board refused an application that had been presented by Edgar Pugliesevich and which envisaged the re-use of existing industrial premises at Dingli for educational and agricultural use and for residential purposes. 

The application had envisaged the development of five residential units, built over a footprint of 1,500sq.m. The agricultural and educational facility was to be built on a footprint of 86sq.m and was to include a lecture room, laboratory, reception area, office, restroom and toilet rooms. 

The development was rejected because the site lies in a Rural Conservation Area. Furthermore, the proposal was not deemed to represent any substantial contribution to agricultural, ecological or scenic interests, which are the only form of urban development acceptable within Rural Conservation Areas. 

Moreover, the amount of space allocated for residential purposes considerably exceeded the amount of land earmarked for agriculture. 

The present use of the site, i.e. an explosives manufacturing factory, cannot be used as a justification for development which can be accommodated with the development zone. 

Referring to the use of the site as an explosives deposit, the PA had argued that this was accommodated outside the development zone because of its nature, and that was the main reason why the construction of the present buildings had been approved on the site. The proposed development does not essentially require the same protection. 

The decision was confirmed on appeal on 8 May 2002.

The latest application was presented by La Toc Hotels Limited, a company formed in 2014 and owned by Dirk Hili, Bianca Anastasi and Veli Holdings. La Toc hotel has recently opened the La Folceneria hotel in Valletta.

Another previous application on the same site, which is outside development zones, had been presented by the government in 2009 to replace the existing explosives factory with a fireworks factory depot. 

The area is designated as one of ‘High Landscape Value’ and a buffer zone to an area of ecological importance.  

Although the development proposed is limited to the already developed site, development on the site may attract more traffic and urban development in a rural setting. 

The government wanted to convert the former Pulvich Explosives Industries site in the area known as il-Qaws, to collect all explosives material related to the manufacture of fireworks under one roof.  The application was turned down in 2012 because of the site’s designation as a rural conservation area and for safety reasons.

At that time, Dingli mayor Ian Borg (now minister responsible for planning and transport) had objected because the development was in a protected site, classified as a Natura 2000 site and a special area of conservation.

James Debono is MaltaToday's chief reporter on environment, planning and land use issues, ...
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