Gharb Council condemns approval of new fireworks factory in locality
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Gharb Local Council, in a statement has said that, “while the Government motto is `Gvern li Jisma,’ the authorities have decided not to give any weight to the will of Gharb residents.”
The Council was reacting to the approval of another fireworks factory in the locality, close to a residential area.
“The will of the people is not given any weight except during the general election campaign. The Government chooses what and whom to listen to,” stated the Local Council. “Despite the fact that Gharb residents had voted against the development of further fireworks factories within the locality.”
“We are referring to the approval of a development permit which is emblematic of abuse of power and where the law of the jungle predominates,” stated the Council.
It added that “a permit for a development with an enormous impact on the locality and within a highly sensitive site which was discussed by the Planning Commission within the Planning Authority was approved in a jiffy.”
The Council argued that this development “should have been considered as a major development in view of its impact and implications and which should have therefore been discussed by the Planning Board. The Local Council would at least have had the right to vote within the Board as established by the recent planning legislation.”
“Not only was this development application considered by the 3-member Planning Commission instead of by the 14-member Planning Board, but the Local Council was not even consulted though it is as a major stakeholder in the locality,” it said.
Gharb Local Council accused the Planning Authority of being “inconsistent,” which it said had in the past years approved development permits so that the Local Council could improve the built and natural environment by restoring rubble walls, valleys and th San Dimitri Chapel through EU funds.
It pointed out that, only a couple of weeks ago the PA recognised the restoration of the chapel during the Malta Architect Awards, “while at the same time approving yet another totally new fireworks factory less than 300 metres from the chapel and 500 metres from the residences.”
“The Planning Authority, while considering San Dimitri Chapel as a chapel worth of a high level of protection, at the same time has approved a development which offers a direct threat to the chapel and has decided to ignore the strong objection by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage which showed its preoccupation with respect to the implications of the development on the chapel and the environmental scar it will create which will be visible from long distances, including from Ta’ Gordan hill,” the Council stated
Gharb Local Council also said that it “condemns the Civil Protection Department which failed to reply when consulted by the Authority, when the application in question consists of a fireworks factory located literally abutting a popular public road which leads to San Dimitri Chapel.”
The Environment and Resources Authority, the Council said, “pointed out in their consultation reply that apart from the loss of virgin land involved and the creation of new scattered structures in the open countryside, the village of Gharb is already burdened with multiple fireworks factories.”
“While the Local Council objected strongly at least twice during the course of the application and it was recognised as a registered objector, it was never consulted as an important stakeholder, even though it is a registered objector in other cases within the locality, including yet another fireworks factory, which seem to be mushrooming in the locality.”
The Council said that above all it condemns the approval of the Fireworks Factory Complexes Policy by the Planning Authority, “the scope of which is clear to dump all fireworks factories, including several new factories, in the picturesque west countryside of Gharb, to the detriment of residents, visitors and owners who till the land in this agricultural area,” it argued.
The Council pointed out that it held a referendum under the supervision of the Electoral Commission to let its residents decide whether they want more fatal fireworks factories within their locality. The vote was clearly against. T
“This decision is not being recognised by the Government and the Authorities and this is a clear threat against democracy and against the people’s opinion,”it stated.
The Council added that Gharb residents have already been subjected to seriously negative implications from fireworks factory explosions which had tragic consequences with many residences suffering considerable damages without receiving any compensation.
The Local Council stated that it will therefore be requesting that this permit be revoked while appealing against the decision. It added that it will not allow the locality to continue to be used as “a dumping ground of fireworks factories and stores with explosive raw materials and products which are transported through the built-up area of the locality with the obvious enormous dangers to which the population is being subjected.”
“Farmers who till the land in the vicinity of these fireworks factories are also afraid of these developments, finding themselves subjected to unnecessary and unfair risk to their lives and livelihoods and those of their families,” said the Council. “These farmers are being literally forced to abandon their lands to the detriment of their families and the environment.”
The Council concluded by saying that it had already prepared a petition which will be submitted to the European Commission, “with the hope that the Planning Authority will be stopped from taking decisions which put people’s lives at risk and which go against the fundamental rights, including the right of enjoying one’s own private property.”
Location map provided by Gharb Local Council