Stand-alone crematoria to be allowed in ODZ

Cremation facilities unattached to any existing cemetery can be allowed in ODZ sites in Malta’s main urban area • ERA wants a more restrictive policy limiting cremation facilities to existing hospitals and cemeteries 

File photo
File photo

A draft policy being proposed by the Planning Authority will permit stand-alone crematoria outside development zones.

These will be allowed if they are located within 1.5km from the boundary of the Principal Urban Area which includes the inner and outer harbour area around towns like Marsa, Cottonera, Zabbar, San Gwann, St Julian’s, Birkirkara, Qormi, Naxxar and Mosta and Ta' Qali. 

Effectively the policy limits crematoria to disused land along arterial roads in the few remaining open gaps between the main Maltese towns.  In Gozo, the policy specifically limits cremation facilities to the countryside around Rabat and Xewkija.

Moreover, cremation facilities have to be located in proximity to arterial roads and will not be permitted in Areas of High Landscape Value amongst many others.

Crematoria can be developed in the areas between the red line and grey areas of the map
Crematoria can be developed in the areas between the red line and grey areas of the map

Crucially unlike the aborted fuel station policy approved in 2014, which led to a mushrooming of petrol stations, this policy does not allow cremation facilities to be developed on agricultural land "unless clearance is obtained" from the PA’s advisory panel on agriculture.

Natura 2000 sites, industrial areas, ridges, woodland, garage, valleys and other protected areas are also excluded. As is the case with cemeteries, cremation facilities cannot be located within a radius of 183 meters from “any house and habitations.”

Sites within a distance of 200 meters from existing cemeteries are listed as a preferred location if these fulfil the other criteria of the policy.

Moreover, ODZ crematoria are limited to sites already covered by a valid development permission provided that the permission is not related to agriculture, animal husbandry, greenhouses and garden centres.

The policy limits the size of the ceremony building, mortuary, viewing room and cremation chamber to a footprint of 500 sqm while the height of the building cannot exceed 7.7m, although an allowance can be made "for architectural features and the chimney structure”.

According to the Planning Authority the 1.5 km limit is meant to avoid proliferation of cremation facilities and to "centralise them in close proximity to the main centres of population.”

Presently, stand-alone crematoria are not permitted because current policies only foresee an extension of existing cemeteries.

In its feedback on the new policy the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) favoured a more restrictive approach.

The Authority had advised that crematoria should be kept to a minimum and preferably be integrated within the perimeter of existing developed sites in order to avoid take-up of undeveloped land.

According to the ERA, the cremation facilities should be preferably located in the precincts of existing hospitals and operational cemeteries. Areas of Containment (ODZ areas where commercial development can be allowed) and Industrial Areas may also be suitable according to ERA.