Planning Authority sanctions Polidano’s Hal Farruġ plant

Sanctioning includes residential quarter for migrant workers and a 19m-high office block

Charles Polidano
Charles Polidano

The Planning Authority has approved two applications by construction magnate Charles Polidano ‘iċ-Ċaqnu’ for an industrial compound in Hal Farrug.

The developer had requested the authority sanction his deviations from permits for the industrial compound in Hal Farruġ, against a €32,754 fine.

Only board member Gilmore Camilleri voted against both permits while NGO representative Annick Bonello voted against one of the permits, which also includes the sanctioning of residential quarters for migrant workers.

The sanctioning does not cover illegalities outside the boundaries of the original permit encroaching outside development zones (ODZ), and the adjacent valley, but are limited to deviations from permits within the boundaries of the industrial area, which are still subject to another enforcement notice which remains in force and subject to another sanctioning application.

The permit will only be executable after illegalities encroaching on the valley are removed.

Both PA executive chairman Martin Saliba and NGO representative Annick Bonello expressed concern on the proposed landscaping in the area, and its impact on the valley.

The illegal developments which have been sanctioned include a workers’ quarters for foreign employees at his concrete, steelworks and gas filling compound.

Board member Annick Bonello warned that this would set a precedent for residential use in industrial sites, also noting that accommodation in an industrial area near an airport is not an ideal environment for the workers themselves.

READ ALSO: Polidano wants Planning Authority to allow ‘deviations’ from Hal-Farrug permits

According to a Green Transport Plan submitted to the PA back in 2015, 64 employees are housed in these quarters.

ERA chairman Victor Axiak, who voted in favour, expressed concern on the massive scale of the sanctioning, questioning whether the fines envisaged are adequate. He also questioned the track record of the developer expressing scepticism that illegalities encroaching on the valley will be actually removed.

Other deviations from original permits include a 19-metre-high head office block, and an adjacent workers’ quarters, as well as a larger-than-approved fuel station and car wash.

Another deviation was an extension to the brick production and gas plants.

The case officer report justified the inclusion of a workers’ quarter because of Polidano’s tendering for projects that require the periodic engagement of “large specialised foreign teams” working on shift basis between the plant and the respective construction sites, which necessitate “in-house temporary workers accommodation”.

A condition forbidding the permanent residential occupation in the area allocated for a workers’ quarter, which should be operated “as one unit under one management” was included in the permit.

Although the workers’ quarters involved the creation of additional levels not foreseen in original plans, which are being sanctioned, the overall height of the residential block will still be lower than the 20m-high head office.

The office block is double the 10.5 metre norm for developments inside so-called areas of containment and designation for industrial sites that are located outside development zones. But it later emerged that the document setting heights for areas of containment has been scrapped, leading to a situation where no height limitations exist for areas of containment.

The PA’s case officer concluded that the height is acceptable because of the nearby 40m-high Lufthansa hangar. Board member Gilmore Camilleri questioned on what policy basis this was being allowed. “I find it difficult to justify why we are comparing the height of a head office with that of a hangar which is a completely different operation.”

The developers’ architects argued that an enterprise employing 1,000 people needed a sizeable high office and this was located in an area with the least visual impact.

Camilleri rebutted that he can only vote on the basis of policy.