MEPA wary about Brangelina filming

MEPA has already received an application for the building of a film set in various areas of Mgarr ix-Xini, in Ta’ Cenc, an ecologically sensitive location, part of which is designated as a Special Area of Conservation.

Dothraki by the Azure Window: an environmental fiasco had sent Game of Thrones away from Malta in 2010, its corresponding locations swapped with Croatia for subsequent seasons of the HBO show
Dothraki by the Azure Window: an environmental fiasco had sent Game of Thrones away from Malta in 2010, its corresponding locations swapped with Croatia for subsequent seasons of the HBO show

The Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) seems to be making sure against getting more egg on its face as far as filming is concerned: it is imposing conditions which ensure the complete removal of structures built for the planned Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie film, once shooting is completed.

It has, for instance, excluded the dispersal of quarry sand which left environmental damage in the wake of the filming of the first season of  Game of Thrones: the 2010 fiasco that sent the HBO fantasy production packing, never to return to Malta.

Now MEPA has already received an application for the building of a film set in various areas of Mgarr ix-Xini, in Ta’ Cenc, an ecologically sensitive location, part of which is designated as a Special Area of Conservation.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie will be shooting a film in Malta, the reason for a recent two-day visit during which they scouted locations in Gozo.

According to MEPA the building of the set “is mainly concentrated around concreted areas” at the bottom of the bay area, and in the eastern fields overlooking Mgarr ix-Xini creek.

In agreement with the film producers, it was decided at a very early stage that the production would avoid any intervention in the Western section, which forms part of the Ta’ Cenc Special Conservation Area.

The film set is to consist mainly of free-standing scaffolding and timber structures, and the details currently being assessed by MEPA indicate a non-invasive technique for the placing of these structures on site.

“The complete reversibility of all interventions, and the complete removal of all props and sets at the end of the filming period, shall be a condition of any permit issued by MEPA against hefty bank guarantees.

“MEPA shall also impose a strict monitoring regime over the production to ensure adherence with all conditions imposed in eventual permissions.

“For the time being, the production has been granted a preliminary permit for the placing of ‘unit base tents’ in the fields adjacent to the Sewage Treatment Plant at Ras il-Hobz,” a MEPA spokesperson said.

The use of materials, such as the large amounts of quarry sand used to alter the landscape at Dwejra to suit the filming of Game of Thrones, is not envisaged, and does not form part of the proposal submitted by the film producers.

“In any case, this would not be allowed due to environmental risks, including the risk of dispersal into a protected marine environment,” the spokesperson for MEPA told MaltaToday.

During the filming of Game of Thrones in 2010 the production company failed to abide by conditions imposed by MEPA when it spread the sand in Dwejra.

The company had simply laid down permeable green netting and the rain that fell hardened the sand.

MEPA’s former auditor, Joe Falzon, had accused the Environment Directorate of abdicating its responsibilities when the permit decision was taken by the Planning Directorate.

Falzon “strongly recommended” that, in any future application involving a special area of conservation, a proper screening of the site should be carried out and the results fully recorded. He also proposed full monitoring of the site during operations.

The auditor advised MEPA to prepare a guidance document for use by people who would like to use protected sites for filming.

Such a document would outline the procedure to be followed and should also make it clear with applicants that delays could be possible in evaluating their application if they provided incomplete details or changed their proposal half-way along the process.

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