Planning Authority approves upgrade to Ħal Far drag strip

Board requests report on how to mitigate light and noise pollution which will be assessed by board chairman Emmanuel Camilleri and deputy chairman Martin Camilleri

Ħal-Far drag strip (Photo: Malta Drag Racing Association/Facebook)
Ħal-Far drag strip (Photo: Malta Drag Racing Association/Facebook)

The Planning Authority has approved an “upgrade” of the existing Kwart ta’ Mil drag racing strip in Ħal Far, but has imposed a condition asking for a report on how to mitigate light and noise pollution in the area. 

The board delegated the task of assessing the report to chairman Emmanuel Camilleri and deputy chairman Martin Camilleri.

Only NGO representative Romano Cassar voted against because no limit was imposed on the number of events which can be organised on the track. The 10 other board members voted in favour.

The decision was taken before the PA considers another application for the construction of a new racetrack on adjacent industrial land earmarked for this purpose by the government.

The Kwart ta’ Mil site occupies an area of 69,430sq.m and currently consists of a drag racing strip operated by the Malta Motorsport Federation.

The current application envisages the reconstruction of the spectator stands to accommodate 3000 people (up from 1,100 today) with underlying changing rooms, stores, sanitary facilities and a 705sq.m retail shop.

It also foresees the relocation and reconstruction of the existing control tower and the construction of a four-storey block consisting of administration offices, two catering establishments, a multipurpose hall and a VIP hospitality box.

The project is aimed at upgrading the existing track to international safety standards.

Birdlife conservation officer Nicholas Barabara made it clear that he has nothing against the sports but expressed concern on its environmental impact of an enormous project located just 120m from a Natura 2000 site which includes cliffs hosting important bird colonies.

He expressed his surprise at the fact that the Environmental and Resources Authority (ERA) had no environmental concerns on the project, pointing out that even vibrations during the construction works will have an impact on the nearby protected area.

He also lamented the absence of any studies documenting the impacts of the new development in comparison to the present activities. He also lamented the absence of a lighting scheme or any traffic impact assessment.

“This is not just a question of formalising an existing activity… we should not ignore the environmental impact simply because the activity already exists,” Barbara said.

Barbara also lamented the lack of consideration given to the cumulative impact which should take in consideration future plans by the Motorsports association.

The project’s architect insisted that there are no plans to increase the number of events - 16 a year - and the number of cars which participates in them.

He also excluded that noise levels will increase over the status quo.

And while the seating capacity will be increased from 1,100 to 3,000 this will not result in an increase of spectators as many of those who attend these events are not seated.     

Replying to Board member Romano Cassar’s concern that no limit has been imposed on the number of events which can be held, the architect replied that “it is impossible for the number of events to increase”. 

Moreover, the number of participant cars is limited by the size of the paddock. 

He also excluded the participation of more noisy cars in these events, insisting that bringing the whole aim of the application is to increase safety to international standards and to put Malta on the calendar map of motorsport events.