Busbesija shooting range proposed to MEPA in 2012

Shooting range at Busbesija was submitted as screening application to MEPA almost one year before Labour administration’s expression of interest for rehabilitation of anti-aircraft battery

A rendition of the proposed shooting range by U Group Malta, as found on their website.
A rendition of the proposed shooting range by U Group Malta, as found on their website.

A planning application for the siting of a shooting range at Busbesija, by the Russian-owned U Group, had already been filed with MEPA before the Labour government issued an expression of interest for the site in question.

The shooting range is at the centre of a controversy because of its siting in the proximity of the Mount St Joseph retreat home run by the Jesuit order, who are mounting a campaign against the proposal.

Anastasia Budykho, of U Group Malta, filed the screening application to rehabilitate the anti-aircraft battery at Busbesija and construct the shooting range on 31 December 2012.

U Group’s subsidiary U-Shoot was established just three days before their MEPA application, identifying the anti-aircraft defence ground at Busbesija for their proposed range and boasting on their website that “project negotiations with the authorities are currently in the final stage.”

No progress appears to have been made on the application, made in an outside development zone. The new administration later issued the expression of interest for the site in question in October 2013.

During the clarification meeting with the Government Property Department, prospective applicants questioned whether there were any planning applications adjacent to the site “since other developments in the area may prejudice the attraction and feasibility of the project.”

In their answer, the GPD said the area adjacent to Busbesija was outside development zone but that a screening application had been submitted to MEPA for the construction of a shooting range.

The plans submitted for the shooting range to MEPA, as filed in the screening application that was quoted by the GPD during the clarification meeting, includes the land surrounding the anti-aircraft battery – a far larger tract of land than that indicated in the EOI advert issued by the government.

An artist’s impression indicates that the barracks cover less than 10% of the area being devoted to the project, which is set to include a 300m range adjacent to the barracks, a 25m range, a 50m range, an indoor range, a dynamic range, trap and skeet ranges, an artillery battery and a paintball park.

The area occupied by the proposed range borders that of the Mount St Joseph retreat house.

The Busbesija anti-aircraft battery, in the Mosta countryside, was one of four abandoned government properties the newly-elected administration issued for an expression of interest.

The others were the Mtarfa isolation hospital, now earmarked for a home for the elderly run by Malta Health Care Caterers; Marfa Palace in Marfa, now to be run as a boutique hotel by Exclusivity Malta; and Strickland House on the outskirts of Mgarr, to be run by Frott Artna Agritourism Consortium for agritourism.

Seven proposals were submitted for the Busbesija site and Strickland House, six for Marfa Palace and three for the hospital, in October 2013. Ten proposals were then submitted in July and evaluated by an adjudicating committee, which issued their recommendations.

While the shooting range’s screening process is still ‘stuck’ in the MEPA pipeline, a planning policy on shooting ranges is yet to be drawn up. The final draft of a “supplementary planning guidance for shooting ranges” was published by MEPA in October 2006, but it has not translated into actual policy. In February 2014, MEPA opened a new public consultation on a policy and design guidance document on shooting ranges.

The 2006 draft policy states that shooting ranges “should not be located close to hospitals, schools, rural settlements or residential areas, homes for retired or disabled due to acoustic nuisances generated.”

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