Naxxar land once earmarked for disability hub makes way for substation proposal

Part of area zoned for Reach disability hub now earmarked for 2,000sq.m distribution centre ‘necessary’ to cater for population increase in Naxxar

An outsize electricity distribution centre is slated to be built on the Naxxar land once earmarked for a community ‘village’ for disabled.

The 2,000sq.m metre distribution centre for three transformers, will be built on part of the larger site once earmarked for the disability hub – currently lying in a derelict state with an 11,000sq.m portion of land excavated and abandoned.

Government sources made it clear that the Enemalta distribution centre is not meant to replace any part of the proposed community village, but that Naxxar requires the additional power set-up.

Naxxar, Għargħur and Iklin rely on a distribution centre in Mosta for its energy. But increased development in the area, not least with the massive projects planned at the former trade fair area, have applied even more demographic pressure to these towns.

The three-transformer centre is required to relieve the pressure on the grid as these localities face an increased likelihood of power cuts. Sources close to Enemalta described the situation as “precarious”.

“Although Malta produces enough energy for its current needs, its distribution system has to be modernised to adapt to new demographic realities triggered by an increase in population,” a source told MaltaToday.

The site for the distribution centre also needs to be large enough for the cumbersome infrastructure needed, a rare prospect within a development zone.

Electricity from the Delimara power station and the Magħtab terminal is distributed to four  primary substations – or distribution centres – two at Marsa, and in Kappara and Mosta, through underground cables of 90.8km carrying 132 kiloVolts. At these centres, voltage is stepped down to 33kV so that electricity can be channelled to another 21 substations – 18 in Malta, two in Gozo, one in Comino.

But residents in Naxxar who are suffering the brunt of over-development have expressed disappointment that an area which the local plan allocates for community facilities is now being allocated for electricity distribution. The issue was even raised at the local council by a resident who insisted the project is in breach of zoning policies, and is only being triggered by the new development on the trade fair grounds, where a 10-storey development was recently approved.

Naxxar mayor Anne Marie Fenech Adami – who controversially approved of the 10-storey development despite protestations from residents – told residents that the council had raised the issue with the authorities. “Don’t worry, we are at it,” she said.

Residents objecting to the project expressed their resentment at the loss of another open space. “We were promised that the site was to include minimal buildings with plenty of open spaces. It is now totally ridiculous that even this area will be built up with a huge distribution centre to supply the adjacent monstrosities that are being constructed next to the Trade Fair grounds”.

Residents also expressed health concerns about low frequency electromagnetic frequencies (EMF), although official sources say such concerns lack scientific grounding.

MaltaToday understands the project is unlikely to happen in the next year. In the meantime, the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage has given its green light to Enemalta’s project, despite the discovery of archaeological remains in the area which led to revisions to plans for a €32 million disability centre approved in 2017.

The SCH had welcomed the project architect’s intent to preserve and integrate any recorded archaeological features.

The disability hub was to include four separate blocks of 78 residential units, a 26-room hostel, a restaurant and cafeteria, a retail outlet, a convenience store, a gym and therapy pool and landscaped areas. In 2019, the request was made to shift the four blocks in order to preserve archaeological features discovered during excavation. The area earmarked for Enemalta’s distribution centre was actually intended for landscaping, a drop zone for cars and one of the four residential blocks.

According to recent statements in the House of Representatives, the government is reconsidering plans for the Reach disability hub. “Stakeholders showed us that there are different needs. As we’re in this phase, this rethinking should be done with the best use of local and foreign expertise and according to the needs of today,” inclusion minister Julia Farrugia Portelli said. But the application for the disability hub was never withdrawn and is still pending although the process has been at a standstill since 2019.