Definitely refused, the decision on the huge Mġarr solar park postponed
A decision on a solar farm project on an area the size of six football pitches on farmland in Mġarr has been postponed after the planning authority’s planning commission pushed the decision to the council of the planning authority.
The Planning Commission makes decisions on dozens of minor permits daily, while the Planning Council normally makes decisions on larger projects.
The item was taken off the committee’s agenda just two days before the meeting scheduled for Friday.
The commission was to dismiss the request after the case officer ruled it violated a number of policies, but Wednesday two days before the scheduled meeting. “In view of the scale of the proposed development, the planning committee requested the non-delegation of the request and requested that this same request be decided by the planning council,” said a spokesperson for the PA. . No date has yet been given for the meeting.
The three-member commission chaired by Martin Camilleri is responsible for deciding on authorizations for applications outside development areas and within urban conservation areas. Another commission chaired by Claude Mallia decides on the candidatures within the development zones. Normally, decisions on major projects are made by the 11-member Planning Council chaired by Vince Cassar. Mġarr’s local council, which opposes the request, is also said to have a vote on the board.
There are no clear guidelines for determining which cases are heard by the commission and which by the planning board. But this is not the first time that matters that were supposed to be heard by the planning committee have been referred to the higher committee.
But the postponement is unlikely to change the negative result because in June the same planning council unanimously rejected a similar but smaller and less controversial request to Għajnsielem in a much less sensitive area.
The officer in charge of the case recommends the refusal
The proposed solar farm ODZ site consists of an area mainly characterized by a mixture of cultivated agricultural land and abandoned fields and garigue, in an area known as Tar-Ragħad in Mġarr.
The case manager’s report makes it clear that the proposal contravenes the Solar Farm Policy, which prohibits solar farms in protected or sensitive locations and in areas of archaeological, cultural or scientific interest and limits such developments to disused quarries. .
She also found that the project violated rural policy and the local plan.
The report refers to “erroneous references” made in a project development statement submitted by the applicant, such as the site being located in a “quarry” or, that the proposed solar farm is intended to cover “existing” greenhouses and describes the proposal as one which is objectionable in principle.
The project, proposed by Electrofix Ltd, is owned by Joseph Schembri and has caused an uproar in Mġarr, drawing more than 1,000 objections from the general public. Heritage Malta, the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage and the Environment and Resources Authority also opposed the development.
Heritage Malta had warned that “the proposed development could increase the risk of flooding at Ta ‘Ħaġrat due to increased rainwater runoff resulting from the extensive land cover associated with the proposed greenhouses.”
Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia has also publicly stated that the solar farm policy does not allow their construction on agricultural land when MaltaToday asked for his opinion on the request.
Refusal of a small solar farm in Gozo
The Planning Board has already spoken out against approving similar developments, saying rural solar farms are in violation of the policy.
A request to install three massive greenhouses partially covered with photovoltaic panels within the boundaries of Għajnsielem was rejected in June.
The request was also recommended for refusal by the case manager because of its negative visual impact on the landscape and for violating the solar farm policy.
According to town planning rules, any photovoltaic installation with a footprint greater than 1,000 m² on ODZ land is governed by the provisions of the 2017 solar farm policy, which only authorizes such installations on old sites. careers and excludes such a development in the countryside.
The proposal covered 9,971 m² of land outside the development area along Triq Mġarr in an area known as Ta ‘Lelluxa. An appeal is still pending against this refusal.
Contrary to this refusal, the Town Planning Council had already approved in 2015 greenhouses with solar panels superimposed on 11,000 m² at the Fiddien in Rabat.