Polidano applies to continue quarrying at Għar Lapsi

Construction magnate Charles Polidano has applied to continue quarry operations in Għar Lapsi on a site adjacent to a Special Area of Conservation despite failing to apply for a permit since 2007.

The application foresees the continuation of landfilling operations, the rehabilitation of the backfilled areas and the extraction of hard stone from the remainder of the site.

The quarry is located in a very sensitive location next to the the coastal cliffs at Ix-Xaqqa and borders the Irdumijiet ta’ Malta Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

The latest permit for quarry operations issued in 2007 specified that the permit had to be renewed each year but an application to renew the permit presented to the Planning Authority in 2008 was later withdrawn by the applicant.

But the quarry was operating ‘legally’ through a legal notice issued in 1997 which regulates permits for quarries where construction waste is dumped for backfilling purposes.

A number of other quarries including the one in Wied Incita in Attard are regulated through the same legal notice.

In a memo on the latest application the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) is insisting that the proposed quarrying should avoid further rock cutting close to the geologically sensitive area of Ix- Xaqqa, as interventions in this area are considered to be of high risk and potentially damaging to the cliffs.

“The reinstated site should consist of terraced fields with low lying rubble walls and should respect the existing topography and the pre-existing land levels”.

While welcoming the “proposed restoration and backfilling of the disused quarry”  as it will remove an existing scar near the SAC, ERA is insisting that the remaining operation and restoration is conducted with the aim of including the whole site in the SAC.

It has also called for the removal of large boundary wall around the site.

The developers have been asked conduct an ‘appropriate assessment’-to assess the potential impacts that the proposed development may have in terms of the ecological, scientific and natural value and integrity of the site and on protected habitats.

ERA still has to determine whether the project requires a full Environment Impact Assessment and has asked the developers to submit a Project Development Statement.

The Għar Lapsi quarry is the largest hard stone quarry in Malta, producing sand and gravel which is mostly used for concrete mixing.

Various policies outlined in PA’s North West local plan recommend the restoration, landscaping and the reuse of these sites leading to their rehabilitation for recreational purposes.

In 2001 the Siġġiewi local council had presented a report compiled by Mario Vassallo to the Ombudsman.

The report concluded that the Għar Lapsi quarry should not have been permitted in the first place and identified a number of illegalities on this site.

In December 2014 the Times of Malta revealed that waste gathered from the dismantling of the Marsa power station was illegally dumped in the Lapsi quarry of Polidano Brothers.

An enforcement order issued in 2007 against a batching plant constructed illegally in the quarry is still pending.

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