NGOs have welcomed the revocation of a controversial development permit for a restaurant extension in Dwejra, Gozo which they had vehemently opposed as it would have threatened the area’s ecology due to light pollution.
In a statement BirdLife Malta hailed the Court of Appeal’s decision to revoke the permit issued last July saying this iconic spot which is especially sought after by astronomers was saved from further development.
Dwejra is designated as a dark sky heritage area according to the Planning Authority’s Gozo and Comino Local Plan, meaning that the installation of lighting that is not related to aerial or maritime navigation should be strongly discouraged.
Submitted by the Azure Window Restaurant, the application was for the installation of a canopy, an outdoor terrace as well as lights which were later removed from the application.
In November 2017, the Planning Authority had rejected the proposal as this was not in line with the provisions of the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development which are meant to safeguard and enhance biodiversity.
However, the developer had successfully challenged the decision before the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, as a result of which the permit was issued last July.
In a last ditch attempt to block the development BirdLife took the case to the Court of Appeal on behalf of a coalition of 15 NGOs. The case was filed in consultation with the University of Malta's Institute of Space Sciences and Astronomy (ISSA), which were both registered objectors. This move was possible through a crowdfunding campaign which in less than two days raised over €3,000 to cover the court expenses.
A separate appeal had also been filed by the Environment Resources Authority.
Last week the court ruled in their favour, meaning that the controversial permit was revoked. Whilst welcoming this decision, Birdlife thanked all those who supported their cause.
The 15 NGOs who had taken the Environment Review Tribunal to court were the following.
Bicycle Advocacy Group, BirdLife Malta, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Isles of the Left, Light Pollution Awareness Group, Moviment Graffitti, Nature Trust-FEE Malta, Ramblers Association, The Archaeological Society Malta, The Astronomical Society of Malta, The Institute of Space Sciences and Astronomy (ISSA), Wirt Għawdex and Żminijietna - Leħen ix-Xellug.