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Fireworks factory to be developed in pristine Gharb valley

Four days after turning down Hondoq ir-Rummien development, the Planning Authority approved a fireworks factory on agricultural land despite its landscape value
 

james
James Debono
4 July 2016, 1:49pm
Just a few days after turning down the Hondoq ir-Rummien Project, the Planning Authority today approved the construction of a fireworks factory in a pristine valley in Għarb, on the strength of a new fireworks policy approved in 2014. 

The application had been refused in 2012 and lies in the vicinity of two sites where fireworks accidents left 10 people in dead. The two separate incidents took place in 2010 and 2012.  Farmers who in the past spoke to MaltaToday had expressed concern over their safety and noted that two fireworks factories already existed in Gharb.

The site of the 2010 explosion remains in shambles.

Appearing on behalf of the objectors, architect Carmel Caccopardo argued that the updated case officer’s report failed to consider the fact that area was designated as one of high landscape sensitivity. The updated report took into account the new fireworks policy.

The policy regulating fireworks factories was approved in 2014 under then parliamentary secretary for planning Michael Falzon. The policy controversially allowed the development of fireworks factories on “dry” agricultural land.

The policy itself was drafted by a committee chaired by Falzon before he was appointed parliamentary secretary.

A technical ad hoc committee appointed by the government to assess these applications had already given its go-ahead. But the PA’s own advisory panel on agriculture had objected in principle to the construction of fireworks factories on agricultural land, irrespective of whether the land is dry or irrigated.

The development will consist of eight structures of different sizes over an area of 4,700 square metres.

Objectors have pointed out that the existing road leading to the site had already been widened illegally and access to the site would require further road widening and more take up of land.

In 2012, the application was rejected because the site fell within an area of high landscape value and an area of ecological importance. The case officer report revealed that the provision of a suitable access would entail considerable environmental disruption, including the demolition of rubble walls. The area is also designated as a category ‘A’ valley.

In December 2010, a consultative referendum was held in Gharb in which 60% of voters expressed themselves against the granting of new permits for fireworks factories. The referendum was called by the local council following a fireworks factory explosion that killed six.

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