PA wants social impact of Gozo airstrip on residents

ERA exempted project from EIA but PA wants social impact study on residents and other studies

The Planning Authority has requested the Gozo Ministry to prepare a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) on the impact of the proposed airstrip on nearby communities in Xewkija and Għajnsielem.

This was confirmed by a PA spokesperson when asked by MaltaToday whether such a study has been requested, in view of the social impact such a large-scale project has on neighbouring community.

Social impact assessments not only assess the concerns of residents living next to large scale projects but also include enforceable measures to address these concerns.

A spokesperson for the Authority told MaltaToday that the proposed application is being assessed in accordance with Gozo and Comino Local Plan Policies for the area.

“All the studies listed in these policies, including ‘a social impact study on the nearby community…’ have been requested as required by the policies.”

The local plan states that an airstrip for a fixed-wing aircraft should only be considered following a number of studies including a social impact assessment.

The local plan also requires a “justification” for proposing a fixed wing aircraft solution in lieu of a rotary wing air link; a study on “alternatives to using a hard runway like the use of an amphibious aircraft”, an economic feasibility study to determine the envisaged longterm revenue against capital and operational costs involved, a comparison of costs and revenue of the proposed alternatives against the helicopter service; the implications of the project on employment.

According to the local plan, these requirements “would complement additional studies relating to the environmental impacts arising from the proposal”.

Some of these issues, like the economic feasibility aspect, have been addressed in a regional impact assessment carried out by the Gozo Regional Authority.

The Environment and Resources Authority recently exempted the proposed “rural airfield” in Xewkija in Gozo from the need of a full Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), after concluding that the impacts of the development are unlikely to be significant to the point of warranting such a study.

Instead of seeking an EIA on the introduction of the fixedwing service and extension of the airfield, it has called for a separate study on the airfield’s noise impact.

The existing Ta’ Lambert runway will be extended from its current 174 metres, to a total length of 445m and a safety area of 30m on each end of the airstrip