The Planning Authority on Thursday approved the setting up of a 3,800 square metre solar farm at the Mellieħa Holiday Centre, just inland from Ghadira beach.

The photovoltaic panels are expected to cover around 42 per cent of the total power usage of the establishment, also known as the Danish Village.

The permit was issued despite the site being in an area of ecological importance owing to what the Environment Authority (ERA) described as a mosaic of garigue vegetation in various stages of succession. 

The Environmental Resources Authority did not object to the project, while noting that the site is located outside the development zone and partly lies within a Natura 2000 site .It stated that the proposal “is in line with previous discussions on site and therefore there are no major environmental concerns.@

ERA, however, recommended that the proposed planting scheme include the use of appropriate indigenous species that grow naturally in the surrounding area.

Concerns by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage

The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage objected to the project, noting that the site is situated within a pristine and cultural landscape, outside the development zone, and in the immediate vicinity of an area of ecological and scientific importance.

Furthermore, it said the site is near an archaeological buffer zone of Bronze Age and Punic-Roman cart-ruts. It warned that the proposed solar farm "will result in a significant visual impact both from medium and long-distance views, negatively impacting on this significant cultural and rural landscape”, and “recommend that this area be rehabilitated and restored to its natural state”.

Architect Edwin Mintoff told the PA board that the Danish Village is run by the DFF Foundation in Denmark and this green project is intrinsically part of its ethos.

He insisted that the primary purpose of this solar farm is to help Mellieħa Holiday Centre offset its carbon footprint, something which the company is required to do by its parent company due to new Danish legalisation.

Concerns regarding the visual impact, particularly from the bypass leading to Għadira and its surroundings, were raised by both the Mellieħa council representative as well as the NGO Din L-Art Ħelwa. To this end, the board suggested increasing the number of trees to 74 to reduce the overall visual impact of the solar farm.

The electricity generated by the solar panel during the day will be used solely by the Mellieħa Holiday Complex. However, it is expected that at certain periods excess power will be generated. The solar panels which will be used will have the least impact on migratory birds following discussions with Birdlife, Mintoff said.

The case officer suggested a €5,400 bank guarantee to cover the landscaping while another condition is that the site will have to be restored to its natural state to the satisfaction of ERA after 30 years.

The project was unanimously approved.

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