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Gharb could get four fireworks factories

Over the past decade, the PA has approved two fireworks factories in Gharb, with two more factories being proposed in the village

James Debono
12 July 2017, 7:50am
Wied il-Mans in Kercem, site for another proposed fireworks factory
Wied il-Mans in Kercem, site for another proposed fireworks factory
A brand new fireworks factory is being proposed in the Ta’ Larmarc area on San Dimitri street in Gharb, in the vicinity of the historic San Dimitri chapel, where the Planning Authority had already refused a permit for an agricultural store in 2009, due to the site’s scenic value.

Over the past decade the Planning Authority has already approved two fireworks factories in Gharb, and a fourth factory is being proposed in the Geriska area of the village.  

The latest new fireworks factory approved by the PA, one of the two approved over the last 10 years, is in Wied ir-Raghab in Gharb – the application was originally rejected in 2012. 

The Environment and Resources Authority is objecting to the latest application, noting that “the village of Gharb is already burdened with multiple fireworks factories”.  The people of Gharb had also voted against the construction of new fireworks factories in a referendum organized by the local council in 2010. 

The proposed factory at Ta’ Larmarc has already been given the clearance of the PA’s ad hoc committee responsible for addressing the safety aspects of such applications. 

The proposal consists of 19 structures of different sizes interspersed in a 5,000 sq.m area.

But the Environment and Resources Authority is opposing the development because the area where it would be built has been proposed for scheduling as an Area of High Landscape Value and Area of Ecological Importance and is presently free from development.

The factory would be located on dry agricultural land, and therefore in line with the policy approved in 2014 which only bans the construction of new fireworks factories on  irrigated land.

But in a memo sent to the PA, the Agricultural Advisory Committee which advises the authority on developments set on agricultural land insisted that it remains “in principle” against the construction of fireworks factories on dry or irrigated agricultural land. 

But if the application is approved the AAC is calling for “a planning gain” to be used for the rehabilitation of agricultural land on other sites. 

If approved the new fireworks factory would be the second one to be constructed in the vicinity of the San Dimitri chapel.

A permit for the reconstruction of a fireworks factory at Ta’ Garrija, 300m away from the historic chapel, was issued in 2013 following an explosion in 2010. The original permit, approved in 2007, was criticized by former PA ombudsman Joe Falzon for the failure to assess the impact of a possible explosion on the chapel.

ERA shoots down factory in Kercem

An application has been filed for a new fireworks factory in the vicinity of San Dimitri chapel (in background)
An application has been filed for a new fireworks factory in the vicinity of San Dimitri chapel (in background)
Apart from the two pending applications in Gharb, the PA is also considering another one in Wied il-Mans in Kercem.

The ERA is also objecting to this application, relating to a location near a watercourse scheduled as an Area of Ecological Value, in an area which is already designated as one of  High Landscape value.

The Kercem local council is objecting because of the security concerns raised by farmers.

But developer Sammy Spiteri insists his proposal is in line with the newly approved policy on fireworks. “There is nothing in the law saying that you cannot build a factory in the vicinity of farmers tilling the land,” Spiteri told MaltaToday in 2015.

Spiteri – a former deputy mayor of the locality which is unattached to any established fireworks organisation – claims he spent the past four years trying to find an ideal place for a fireworks factory.

He referred to another fireworks factory in the same area of Kercem, approved around 20 years ago as justification for his project. “I have heeded the advice of experts in the field and all I expect is that my proposal is assessed according to planning policies, which do not forbid factories in agricultural areas as long as safety and planning regulations are respected,” Spiteri said.

While fireworks factories are likely to be incompatible with other landuses in the urban area, the ERA insists that such development should be directed to less sensitive locations.

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