Developers behind a massive solar farm project in Mġarr, which was unanimously rejected by the Planning Authority’s board, cannot change their plans when filing a recourse, insisted the AP.
The development, proposed by Joseph Schembri of the Electrofix Group, would occupy arable land the size of six football pitches. It would see 5,784 photovoltaic solar panels installed on 90 greenhouses covering an area of 14,100 square meters, or around 32% of the total site.
The initial proposal was rejected by the Planning Authority council in March.
But new plans have been appealed to the Planning Appeal and Review Tribunal, proposing even more solar panels – 6,528 panels in a total area of 18,760 square meters, taking up 42% of the land.
The appeal hearing, scheduled for last Tuesday, has been postponed until September.
In the appeal, the plaintiffs argue that they have often asked the council to put their application on hold so that they can submit revised plans following discussions with the agriculture and energy ministries. The request, they say, was denied.
“Minor ground disturbance”
They note that the greenhouses will produce “large quantities of crops” for the local market, with solar activity reducing costs. They insist there will be ‘minor land disturbance’ and that conditions could be imposed to ensure that if ‘the agricultural process stops, solar activity also stops immediately’.
But the AP says the appeals tribunal cannot make a decision on a proposal different from the one considered by the council.
“If the court accepts the changes at this point, that same court would not be able to decide whether or not the authority was correct at the time of the decision.”
The Palestinian Authority notes that the request to suspend the process was made a month after the conclusion of the case officer’s report last December, which recommended denying the request because the development goes against Palestinian policy. solar farm, among others.
The Cultural Heritage Superintendency also responded to the call, noting that neither it nor the Palestinian Authority had evaluated the revised designs at the application stage. Nevertheless, the revised drawings have not changed the principle of the application, which remains open to criticism.
“The area is of considerable archaeological sensitivity”
“The area is of considerable archaeological sensitivity, as evidenced by its inclusion in the Mġarr Area of Archaeological Significance [which] includes the World Heritage Sites of Ta’ Ħaġrat and Skorba,” the Superintendency adds.
Besides the negative visual impact, any ground disturbance could have an impact on the archaeological remains.
Heritage Malta has warned of an increased risk of flooding at Ta’ Ħaġrat due to increased rainwater runoff from the extensive ground cover associated with the proposed greenhouses.
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