Updated | Mosta shooting range plan shelved • Russian developers ‘not informed’ of decision, council hits out at ‘inexistent’ communication

Mosta local council and U-Group Malta - the Russian owned company behind the Mosta shooting range - says it was not informed of the government’s decision to dismiss the plan.

A rendition of the proposed shooting range by U Group Malta proposed the development of an area of about 300 square metres.
A rendition of the proposed shooting range by U Group Malta proposed the development of an area of about 300 square metres.

The Russian investors behind the proposed shooting range in Busbesija, Mosta, have hit out at the news that its plan has been dismissed on account of its finances, arguing that it is “surprised at the statements,” and that it was “never informed of the issues.”

Speaking to MaltaToday, a government spokesperson confirmed that the project on the derelict military installation proposed by Russian owned company named U-group had been shot down by the government as it failed the due diligence process conducted by it prior to the project’s approval.

“The planned shooting range in Busbesija, Mosta, has been dismissed, and the government is now looking at the second preferred bidder,” the spokesperson said.

Moreover, speaking to MaltaToday, Mosta mayor Edwin Vassallo argued that the whole project had been shrouded in obscurity and that it was only through the media and the investor’s Facebook account that it got to know of the details surrounding the project.

While welcoming the dismissal of the plan, the Nationalist mayor insisted the shooting range would have produced adverse effects on residents nearby and environmental standards. Vassallo also explained that dismissal of the shooting plan further highlighted the “lack of communication” between the government and the community.

“We were only informed of this decision through the media … I think that the government should learn from this situation. Whenever a project is proposed, the consultation process, if any, would stop abruptly, or in some occasions, be carried out only as a formality.”

“From the start of the shooting plan proposal, the local council was not consulted, and it was only through the Facebook account of U-group that the council got to know of the details.  In this case, the level of communication between the authorities and the local council was not only minimal, but inexistent,” Vassallo insisted.

The former anti-aircraft battery in Busbesija was earmarked to be developed into a shooting range, complete with a 300-metre range adjacent to the barracks, a 25m range, a 50m range, an indoor range, a dynamic range, trap and skeet ranges, a museum, an artillery battery, and a paintball park. The Busbesija anti-aircraft battery was one of four abandoned government properties the newly-elected administration issued for an expression of interest.

The other dilapidated sites identified by the government for restoration are 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.

But no sooner than the proposed shooting range was announced, environmental groups, residents, and the Jesuit community that runs the Mount St Joseph retreat house nearby joined the chorus of boos.  The Jesuits also criticised the government after its provincial, Patrick Magro, said that the Order had not been consulted on the impact of the range, located just 300 metres away from the retreat home. The Jesuits also said that the shooting range would abut the Jesuits’ silent retreat house.

But notwithstanding the mounting criticism at the project, it was the Russian company’s finances that led to the idea being shelved, the Sunday Times of Malta reported on Sunday.

However, whereas the news of the shooting down of the proposed shooting range has been welcomed by the local council, the company behind the proposal found little solace in the news, instead arguing that it was “surprised” of the news and that it was never informed of the issues in question. 

“U-Group Malta Limited was not informed by the government decision … It was never asked any clarifications on its submission by any Government representative in the lines reported in the media,” it said.

“U-Group Malta Limited would be very surprised if any decisions or issues were communicated to the media by the government but not to the investors,” the Russian company said.