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Decision on controversial new fireworks factory in Għaxaq deferred by a week

An application by the Tarxien based Għaqda tan-Nar San Gabriel to construct a fireworks factory on 9,000sq.m of agricultural land in Għaxaq has been deferred by another week.

The request for a deferral was made by the Għaxaq band clubs opposed to the development with a view of ensuring  permit conditions would safeguard the use of a nearby site to let off fireworks during the Ghaxaq feast.

Legally only the applicant can request a deferral and the request was initially refused by the applicant represented by architect Edwin Mintoff who insisted that the application had been dragging on since 2012.

But following a 15-minute suspension of the meeting, Mintoff accepted the deferral describing this as a “gesture of good will” while insisting that a final decision should be taken next week.

MaltaToday is informed that the government fears alienating either one of the two Labour leaning communities irrespective of the decision taken and is exercising pressure for some sort of agreement to be reached.

The application was being recommended for approval by the case officer after it was approved by a technical committee which assesses the safety aspect of applications.

Over the past months the Għaxaq band clubs supported by the local council presented a petition against the application and produced studies confirming the incompatibility of the new fireworks factory with the use of the adjacent site for letting off fireworks.

The Għaxaq local council objected to the proposed fireworks factory, not just because of its impact on the firing site, but also because of the loss of agricultural land and the risk it poses to residents, industrial buildings, two chapels and a cemetery with religious and historical significance, and the active agricultural community that surrounds the site.

The development was recommended for approval because the 2014 policy allows new fireworks factories on agricultural land if these are granted prior approval by the ad hoc committee, which includes the Civil Protection Department, police and the army.

While acknowledging the “further intensification of development within an ODZ area” as well as the take-up of good agricultural land that could compromise an Area of High Landscape Value, the Planning Authority’s case officer recognised that the factory cannot be located within building zones, for safety reasons.

The PA’s own advisory committee on agriculture objected in principle, but since the fireworks factory policy permits factories on dry agricultural land, the committee proposed the imposition of a planning gain to be used for the rehabilitation of agricultural land.