A large abandoned complex used in the 80s as an explosives factory, located in one of Malta’s few remaining unbuilt areas and with views that stretch across Dingli and Mtahleb cliffs, is being proposed as a ‘high class’ tourism development consisting of bungalows, a pool and other facilities.
The controversial application, published by the PA for public consultation only last week, to demolish and develop the Pulvich explosives factory was submitted by Sunroute Hotels Ltd, owned by the Sant family (owners of the popular JB Stores in l-Iklin and the Hotel Santana in St Paul’s Bay).
According to the application, Sunroute, represented by Maria Sant, does not own the land and it is yet not known what type of agreement exists with the Pugliesevic family, the owners of the land which is the size of a football ground.
The Pugliesevic family has made various efforts over the last 20 years to use the land for commercial development. The family acquired the land for close to nothing for use as an explosives factory in a remote area, due to the dangerous nature of the activity. They were given a permit by the government just before the 1987 election, on the condition the land is used exclusively for that purpose.
Despite various development applications submitted to transform the abandoned factory into more lucrative commercial activities, the authorities have so far always refused to grant a permit in an ecologically sensitive area.
The factory and its large grounds are situated on high ground overlooking the scenic Mtahleb and Dingli cliffs between l-Irdum ta’ l-Ihfar and Ix-Xaghra tal-Qaws in Dingli. All existent planning policies do not allow any development to take place in the protected area.
Apart from being in a Natura 2000 site – a special area of conservation of international importance – the area is also adjacent to another Natura 2000 site, within an area of ecological importance and an area considered to be of high landscape value.
Repeated attempts to develop the site
The Pugliesevic family has been trying to develop the land since at least 1997 when their explosives, used mainly in quarries, started being replaced with more modern technology.
In 1997, Edgar Pugliesevic applied to turn the explosive factory into agricultural and residential use. The application was turned down by the Planning Authority, confirmed by the Appeals Board.
Even an application to build a store next to the existing factory was turned down.
In 2009, the Pugliesevics applied to replace the factory with a fireworks depot. Still, the application was refused due to the area’s sensitivity.
In 2017, through La Toc Hotels, an application was submitted to turn the area into an eco-spa and tourism resort. The application was withdrawn after strong objection by the Environment and Resources Authority and many others.
Last April, applicant Michael Bugeja attempted to develop the factory into residential units. The application was withdrawn after a few weeks, only to be replaced by the most recent development application.
The Planning Authority is now asking all those interested to file their objections to the application (PA5257/20) by mid-April before it continues with its process to issue its recommendation on the permit.