A change in the law a few weeks after the general election allowed the government to obtain permission for a massive shooting range at Ta’ Kandja, an electoral pledge, without a full development application.
The shooting range was validated by the Planning Authority on November 22 through a simple Development Notification Order (DNO), usually reserved for minor developments.
It was submitted as part of a “reorganisation plan” of the adjacent Police Academy in the outskirts of Siġġiewi. The whole project has an area of more than 100,000 square metres, the size of 14 football pitches.
The DNO procedure typically exempts a range of minor developments from full permit application procedures. Under the procedure, the public is not part of the planning process and has no right for an appeal.
However, in a legal notice published on August 1, the government added a clause allowing all developments carried out on land “under the operational control of the Malta Police Force” to benefit from the DNO.
Such developments would require only the clearance of cultural and environmental authorities and a letter of recommendation from the minister responsible.
The complex is to be completed in time for the June World Shooting Championship
Days after the law was introduced, on August 8, the Police Force submitted the application for the reorganisation plan and shooting range.
The letter of recommendation was issued by Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia, who said the project was “required by the Malta Police Force” for “national civic security”.
Yet when asked, in a parliamentary question last week, whether the shooting range would be solely for the disciplined forces or open to public use, and whether there was any private sector involvement, Mr Farrugia redirected the question to “the minister responsible”. He did not clarify who this was.
Neither the Environment and Resources Authority nor the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage raised any objections to the development.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced his intention to develop a regional sports shooting hub at Ta’ Kandja, a longstanding goal of sports shooting organisations, during the election campaign in May.
Dr Muscat spoke of plans for a “shooting sports village” housed at the former SAG quarters alongside the Police Academy. The plans were to include open ranges for various types of weapons, as well as paintball, with a government investment of around €7 million.
Plans released when the project was announced correspond with the plans for the approved shooting range made public by the PA.
Parliamentary Secretary Clifton Grima said in October he expected the complex to be completed in time for the June World Shooting Championship in Malta.
The shooting range was initially earmarked for a former military installation in the outskirts of Mosta, close to the Mount St Joseph retreat home, but the idea was shelved after investors pulled out amid public outrage over the proposal.