Magħtab ECOHive Project in limbo after court stopped illegal WasteServ work

Work on the government’s €500 million ECOHive project, involving multiple waste processing plants at Magħtab has hit a wall after illegal excavation work on arable land has been halted following a prohibitory injunction requested by a local farmer.

Permits for the excavation works never progressed past the screening stage, yet WasteServ, under the chairmanship of CEO Richard Bilocca, dug up hectares of arable land previously in use by farmers before being stopped by a court order.

Excavation work on a smaller area slated for an energy-generating incinerator plant was also halted by the prohibitory injunction given that, despite a permit being approved for them, WasteServ ignored that the land was subject to a case before the Court of Appeal.

A case for the revocation of the injunction will be heard on 26 April.

Photos from different sections of land on which the illegal works were begun show a trail of destruction.

The prohibitory injunction (1506/22/1), requested by farmer John Pullicino, was issued after diggers and trucks contracted by WasteServ started work on land he used to till until last year, despite an ongoing court dispute over who had a title to the same land.

When issuing the prohibitory injunction, the court noted that “WasteServ’s actions in completely ignoring the ongoing judicial process are indeed worrying to this court”, calling into question WasteServ’s “respect to the rule of law.”

WasteServ has since opened a court case calling for the prohibitory injunctions revocation, with the first hearing set for 26 April. Concurrently, the Lands Authority has also issued an eviction notice to Pullicino.

What’s Planned?

The ECOHive project consists of multiple waste management plants, with the whole complex being split up across several planning authority permits at different stages of completion.

The masterplan application for the site (PA/8138/20) has ‘not yet been fully submitted’ according to the Planning Authority server, with a case officer report on a related application noting that “full development application for ECOHive complex masterplan was withdrawn”.

A case officer’s report notes that the project’s masterplan was withdrawn. The application remains incomplete and inaccessible to the public.

Initial plans for a waste-to-energy incinerator from 2019, outlined in PA/03012/20, were later expanded in May 2022 with an application (PA/03932/22) for site clearance and study for “future plants”.

The updated plans outline a massive development spanning around 9 hectares, roughly equivalent to 13 football pitches, in an area known as Ta’ Ħammud.

Works on site started despite the application never making it past the screening stage.

A site plan for the planned internal roads notes that they will service a material recovery facility, the existing organic processing plant, a second organic processing plant and a thermal treatment facility.

The referenced plants fall in line with the ECOHive project’s plans for a waste-to-energy incinerator, a new organic processing plant and a recycling plant. It is unclear why a second organic processing plant is needed for the area.

A site plan for internal service roads gives a clearer picture on what is planned for the area.

Plans for the incinerator have already been delayed several years, with the five consortia competing for its tender having supposedly entered negotiations with a WasteServ evaluation committee over the past few weeks.

The delays and planning issues facing the project, along with the deluge of resignations from some of WasteServ’s most seasoned professionals since Bilocca took the helm, once more call into question the continued mismanagement of Malta’s waste and energy sectors.


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1 month ago

Unfortunately , professionals paid beyond their dreams and rendered slaves to their idiot masters. Ignoring the Courts makes a person a criminal , but bowing to your master’s orders simply makes a “laqi” out of the CEO. So besides building this incinerator in the Middle of Malta , the CEO also goes against the law , to make his boss happy. Shame is the only title.

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