Press Release 4th February, 2016
“Wied Moqbol should be protected”
Front Ħarsien ODZ strongly objects to the MEPA Review Tribunal’s 2014 decision in favour of a new hardstone quarry in Wied Moqbol, Żurrieq, against the earlier decisions of the same Tribunal in 2005 and in 2009. The Front reiterates its claim that further encroachment on ODZ must be avoided in all cases of non-essential development, and urges the Tribunal to decide against the developer’s appeal.
The Front also appealed to the PL led Żurrieq local council to oppose the permit as it did back in 2005. After the latest appeal in 2014, Mr Justice Mark Chetcuti had criticized the tribunal for basing its decision on other considerations, such as the value of the agricultural land, rather than applying policies, as it is supposed to.
The land proposed for the quarry is designated as agricultural according to local plans, and therefore, no development that is not directly related to farming can be permitted. This is clearly stated in Local Plan SMAGO1 “Within Agricultural Areas, as indicated on the relevant Environmental Constraints Maps, only buildings structure and uses essential to the needs of agriculture will be permitted.”
The Front notes that Wied Moqbol is protected at International level as a Natura 2000 Special Area of Conservation. The area is also protected under the EU’s Birds Directive as the habitat of two kinds of sea-birds, the Cory and Levantine Shearwaters. The proposed quarry will also have adverse impact on a population of carob trees, with negative effects on soil erosion and biodiversity.
In addition, the Front appeals to SPED 2.25, which recognizes the “unsustainable” nature of limestone extraction, the permanent damage to ecology and landscape caused by quarries, as well as the detrimental effects of dust emissions on agriculture and health. Although as it stands, SPED is merely a set of general principles and contains no policies or plans, it generally recommends the re-use of building materials and seeks “to promote the efficient use of resources including local stone, water and soil, and manage waste in a manner that safeguards natural processes and minimises impacts on cultural heritage, landscape and human health.”
Such objectives are incompatible with further quarrying on land that is Outside Development Zone, and which furthermore, has such important and sensitive ecological areas nearby. For these reasons, the Front Ħarsien ODZ appeals to MEPA’s Review Tribunal to stand by its policies and refuse permission for a quarry at Wied Moqbol.