Generator proposed for Dwejra interpretation centre

Permanent generator proposed right in the middle of an existing car park to provide supply of electricity for interpretation centre in Dwejra.

A permanent generator located right in the middle of an existing car park is being proposed to provide a secure supply of electricity for the interpretation centre - which includes a wine-bar/restaurant on the second floor - which were controversially approved at Dwejra, Gozo in 2007.

The new structures in Dwejra are not connected to the electricity grid, as this would require the development of a substation or electricity cables in a protected site where no such development can take place.

The Malta Environment and Planning Authority had issued the permit for the generator in the Dwejra car park in the original permit issued in 2007, but this permit has now expired and MEPA is now considering an application to renew it.

It is set to make a decision on 24 June, during a meeting of its board. The interpretation centre only opened its doors in March - a few weeks before the 2013 general elections - to house the PANACEA environmental education centre.

In an article published in Sunday Circle, project director and marine biologist Alan Deidun confirmed that a generator - which he described as "precarious, at best" - is already providing the power required to keep the centre running. He also claimed that MEPA has agreed, "albeit verbally, to cover the generator costs", which amount to about €15,000 each year.

MEPA's planning directorate is recommending the approval of the generator despite objections by the Environment Protection Directorate. The area is officially devoid of water, sewage and electricity services and should remain so. It described the approval of a generator as a 'retrograde step' which could give rise to environmental impacts, which in turn could have 'a significant impact on the integrity of the Natura 2000 site'. 

The Natural Heritage Advisory Committee had also recommended a less 'intrusive' location.

It also noted that the original permit for installing the generator has expired.

But the Planning Directorate is arguing that the development will have no environmental impact as it is located in a car park. It also notes that the interpretation centre, the cafeteria and the toilets are already functional and are therefore 'commitments' for the proposed generator. Thus, according to the case officer, the expiration of the original permit is not relevant as the structures to be serviced by the generator are already in place. The case officer also points out that MEPA is involved in the running of the centre through an agreement for part-financing the operating costs.

The Dwejra Management Board gave no feedback as this is "currently suspended".

Dwejra Planning Saga

An application for a restaurant by the same person was rejected by MEPA on three separate occasions between 1998 and 2000 - only to be approved on the same place when it was later incorporated into an interpretation centre, approved by MEPA in March 2007, for the Dwejra heritage park. Following the March 2008 election MEPA halted the works on the cumbersome structure on the Dwejra ridge, pending further investigations on possible deviations from the approved plans. Subsequently, plans were changed to minimise the impact and were approved in March 2010.

When the authority controversially sanctioned a number of boathouses on the eve of the 2008 election, the permit also precluded any use of electricity.

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