The Planning Directorate has put on hold its assessment of a controversial development application to turn a former explosives factory at Dingli Cliffs located in a Natura 2000 site into a tourist development.
This was done at the request of the architect for the project, Joe Grech, according to information available on the Authority’s web site.
It is not yet known whether the applicants, Sunroute Hotels Ltd (the same owners of the popular JB Stores in Iklin), will be withdrawing their application or only modifying plans following strong opposition to the project.
It is not the first time that applications for controversial developments have been suspended, only to be kept on the back burner until negative public opinion subsides and then plans are revived with minor modifications.
Last week, The Shift reported that the Planning Authority was flooded with objections over the planned development at the abandoned Pulvich factory, on the outskirts of Dingli.
Some 500 objectors, including several NGOs, are appealing to the Planning Authority to reject the application as it goes against planning rules and will permanently ruin the ecologically sensitive area.
Situated just metres away from Dingli Cliffs, the factory was built in the mid-80s by the Pugliesevic family to manufacture explosives used in quarrying.
The factory was given a permit in a remote location due to the danger the manufacture of explosives could pose to nearby residents and included a specific condition that the building was not be used for any other purpose.
After the family’s business received a blow due to improved technology, the area was left abandoned. Yet its owners were filing one application after another to turn the land into other lucrative uses including storage facilities, residential units and now a tourism complex.
For the past two decades, the Planning Authority and the Environment and Resources Authority have resisted all attempts to develop the site, insisting that the area is so sensitive that no development can be allowed.
Yet the latest application filed last June immediately raised suspicions of a sinister deal as ERA and the Malta Tourism Authority suddenly changed course and appeared to be toying with the idea of permitting the development.
Suspicions increased when, just a few weeks after the latest application was submitted, Infrastructure Malta and the Water Services Corporation hurriedly, and without a permit, dug up the road leading to the abandoned factory and installed a new potable water pipeline leading to the factory’s site.
No other residents live along the road where the infrastructural works were carried out.
Infrastructure Malta, which denies any connection between these works in one of Malta remotest areas and the Pulvich factory application, spent €350,000 of taxpayer money to install the pipeline and tarmac the roads leading to the abandoned factory.
The government agency falls under the responsibility of Transport and Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg, the former mayor of Dingli.