The controversial planning application aiming to convert an abandoned explosives factory into a tourism complex in Dingli, first exposed by The Shift, has been withdrawn by the applicants Sunroute Hotels Ltd, known mainly as the owners of JB Stores.
While it is not yet known why the application was withdrawn and whether another application for the same Outside Development Zone (ODZ) site will be filed in the future, activists who had opposed the project have cautiously treated the withdrawal as a victory, while warning that they will remain vigilant to ensure the project does not go through in any shape or form.
The withdrawn application (PA/05257/20) sought to convert the 6275sqm factory site into 10, one-floor blocks with a total built-up footprint of 1,599sqm, along with an additional 269sqm to be dedicated to 20 parking spaces.
In September of last year, the Planning Authority’s (PA) case officer had recommended the application for approval, in spite of the fact that the site falls squarely into a protected Natura 2000 zone and concerns flagged by hundreds of objectors.
The site is also designated as an Area of High Landscape Value and a Special Area of Conservation of International Importance due to its coastal position overlooking Mtaħleb and Dingli cliffs.
The objectors pointed out that the approval of this project would set “a dangerous precedent” for such a highly protected site, laying down the path for other projects in similar areas.
In spite of all the layers of environmental protection supposedly afforded to the site, the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) gave the green light to the project after it was downsized from previous applications, imposing limitations on the height and breadth of the buildings but generally approving the development in a protected area.
ERA had also concluded that the project does not require an Environment Impact Assessment, a usually crucial component in determining what effects such a development would have on its surrounding ecological environment.
The Authority also dismissed the notion that the development would have “any significant impacts on the integrity of the species, habitats, and the Natura 2000 site as a whole” as long as the conditions it laid down for the development were followed Only the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage and the Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee had outright objected to the development, arguing that it would result in the formalisation and development of the area.
The Shift has previously reported on how, in the weeks leading up to the filing of the application, Infrastructure Malta had spent €350,000 on expensive, heavy-duty water pipes in the road leading up to the abandoned factory. The roads agency had denied the works were conducted to service the proposed development even though they lead to nowhere.