The planning authority board this afternoon postponed a decision on an application  by Waste Oils Limited to upgrade port facilities at Fort Ricasoli in Kalkara (the former tank cleaning farm just inside Grand Harbour).

Mepa Chairman Vince Cassar said that the board had not been presented with sufficient facts to be able to decide. He said that a decision would be taken once Transport Maltawas consulted, and the applicant presented the lease agreement signed with the government in 2013 as the site was the subject of a 30-year lease agreement which expires in 2043.

Earlier Opposition representative Ryan Callus had said that he was not in position to decide as he did not have all the facts on the table.

The facility receives liquid waste from vessels and industry and removes oil and other chemical contaminants prior to discharge into the sea.

The application wants to build a new boiler house and dismantle existing ones, upgrade oil and water facilities, construct ancillary stores, workshops and offices.

The development application also includes the relocation of a freshwater tank, construction of spill containment areas and the upgrading of all pipe works.

During his presentation the developer argued that the project would minimise the visual impact of the existing facilities, built in 1964, and improve environment standards. It was also noted that the plant's capacity of six 3,000 cubic metre tanks would not be increased. He also expressed his willingness to relocate the plant once the 30-year lease agreement with government expired in 2043 and to pay higher rent if Fort Ricasoli was restored.

The applicant also argued that Malta was bound to provide facilities for disposal of dirty ballast according to international regulations. 

In his report the Mepa case officer expressed concerns that the development would have an adverse impact on this Grade 1 scheduled area which has historical value. He noted that the application countered the structural plan policy which sought to conserve structures of architectural, historical and townscape importance.

The proposed development would also compromise the long-term aims of the Grand Harbour Local Plan which discouraged further investment in the plant and promoted its relocation.

It was also argued that the construction of stores and workshops and the redevelopment of the office blocks runs contrary to the structure plan.

Last December The Sunday Times of Malta, reported an unusual black effluent which was being discharged from a pipe onto the rocky shore beneath the fort’s walls.
In its reply Waste Oils back had said that it had no rational explanation for this, saying that such effluent had never been reported before. However, it said that one plausible explanation could be that water inside some equipment which had not been used for some time had turned black and was leaking.

Asked on this incident during today's hearing, the developer stated that this was iron sulphide which did not pose a hazard. He added that a pilot filtration system installed last July ensured that the effluent was within the acceptable standards.

During the same meeting today, the Mepa board unanimously approved an application for the construction of a new factory for Camel Brand Limited, on the same site of an existing derelict factory at Tal-Handaq in Qormi.