Naxxar ‘disability hub’ is hole in the ground as mediation underway

Mediation with contractors underway 18 months after works on Naxxar disability hub ground to a halt

A mediation process is currently underway between the Sapport agency and the contractor entrusted with the stalled disability ‘hub’ in Naxxar.

Naxxar residents and the local council were given no explanation as to why works on the village for disabled persons had ground to a halt over 18 months ago and has since been abandoned.

The €32 million Reach project had to be built next to the former trade fair grounds: four detached blocks of 78 residential units, a 26-room hostel, a community building, restaurant and retail outlets, and therapy centre and underground car park. The hub is intended for persons with a disability living on site.

The project was given the green light in December 2017 and the tender was awarded to Bonnici Brothers of Burmarrad. Excavations started in 2019, but ground to a halt by December that same year, with the site left untouched since then.

Despite numerous attempts to find out why the work stopped and when it will resume, or if the project will now be completed, the local council is still without answers. Executive secretary Paul Gatt told MaltaToday it as in the dark. “We keep asking what is going on, but we get nowhere,” he said. “We’ve had no contact whatsoever and not even Aġenzija Sapport has been in touch with us.”

It is also unclear if excavation works are even completed, with no explanation given as to why mounds of inert waste left on site for months.

A spokesman for Julia Farrugia Portelli, minister for inclusion and social wellbeing under whose remit the project falls, said it will refrain from comment “not to prejudice” talks between Sapport and the contractor. Yet questions from this newspaper sent to Sapport were not answered, and attempts to contact Bonnici Brothers proved futile.

Objections to project

The project goes back to 2016, when Justyne Caruana was parliamentary secretary at the time. In 2017 objectors argued that the development would make an already bad traffic problem even worse and that the project was not fit for the area.

Even the Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disability had opposed the project in, mentioning its objections in its four-year report to the United Nations in criticism of the government’s implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability.

Critics said the concept of a hub for disabled persons would distance them from the rest of the community, going directly against provisions of the Equal Opportunities Act and CRPD guidelines recommending they “not be physically segregated.”

Questions to Sapport

The agency which should be pushing for the resumption of the works failed to answer questions from MaltaToday which asked: when did works at the REACH hub last take place?

Has excavation been completed? Have the contractors filed any complaint concerning the removal of inert waste? Is the project still slated for completion as initially approved or have plans changed? What is the cost of works to date on the project? What is the new completion date for this project?