The Malta Independent 15 November 2018, Thursday

Old Trade Fair Grounds in Naxxar

Malta Independent Tuesday, 9 February 2010, 00:00 Last update: about 5 years ago

MEPA lately seems to be making the headlines for all but the wrong reasons. Whilst in principle we citizens agree to having an authority such as MEPA “which is the national agency responsible for land use planning and environmental regulation in Malta”, we expect that the delivery of such a statement is not only consistent but also that it remains loyal to its documentations and declarations.

What is happening in Naxxar at this very moment is something of great concern, not only to us residents but also to the country as a whole, as the outcome could easily determine the manner in which MEPA intends to carry out its duties with regards to all their Local Plans.

In July 2006, MEPA issued its Approved Central Malta Local Plan (which may be viewed in its entirety by visiting http://www.mepa.org.mt/cmlp-docs). The local plan was approved by the MEPA board on 11 July 2006 and endorsed by the Minister for Rural Affairs and the Environment on 3 August 2006. It very clearly states:

“NA02 – Malta Trade Fair Site – In the event that the existing Malta Trade Fair activity ceases operating on this site, either through closure or relocation of this land use elsewhere, MEPA will not permit the continued use of this site as a Trade Fair but will allow the entire site to be redeveloped for the following land uses:

1. High quality residential development;

2. A Local Centre in the westernmost part of the site;

3. The retention and upgrading of the axial central walkway route as designated in the Naxxar Area Policy Map; and

4. An underground car park to serve the new residential developments”.

“Furthermore, the comprehensive plan for the area designated by this Policy is also to follow the planning policy guidelines as set out in Appendix C “(Malta Trade Fair Site Planning Criteria). This report contains the planning and design criteria for the future re-development of the Malta Trade Fair Grounds, the confines of which are indicated in the Naxxar Area Policy Map. It outlines the type of development, height restrictions, landscaping, etc...

“5.2 The overall massing of the project shall not create over-sized monolithic or high building blocks, but shall consist of small built volumes with inter-connected well landscaped terraces and passageways that will, in time, soften the mass of the blocks.

“5.3 The overall height limitation of the buildings within the site is of four floors above the level of any proposed route (vehicular/pedestrian/shared surfaces). (...) MEPA will consider the development of buildings on five floors in the north-western part of the site only if this is required in order to retain a total developable residential floorspace of 116,250 sqm. A penthouse level shall be permitted above roof level of these buildings provided that this will not impinge on important views and vistas into and out of the Naxxar UCA.”

Here, MEPA made a clear statement on which many families made their decisions to invest in properties near the old Trade Fair Grounds, for which MEPA issued the necessary permits. For all intents and purposes, back in 2007, the Trade Fair activity ceased to operate on this site. Moreover the new company, which was formed specifically to cater for the fairs, was forced to operate from Ta’ Qali as from October 2007, when the Machinery Fair was organised at the MFCC tent. This was done to follow the above mentioned policy plans. This is very important, because the same people who ran the company at Ta’ Qali at the time, are the same people who formed a new company and are trying to bring back the trade fairs at Naxxar, even though they should be very well be aware that this was prohibited by MEPA even way back in 2007. Moreover, following the court application filed against TFEA Ltd., where it is being stated that the grounds do not have the necessary permits and trading licences, we are of the opinion that MEPA should be in a better position to confirm such allegations and if proved true, stop such activities immediately.

In addition to Naxxar Local Plan, one will also find the North West Local Plan – Approved Ta’ Qali Action Plan by MEPA Board on 20 June 2006; Endorsed by Minister on 2 August 2006. This clearly states;

“13.21 Trade Fairs and other activities have been held over a period of time at Ta’ Qali because of the suitable open space for the erection of tents and stands on the former runway area. Adequate parking is also available nearby.

“13.23 A temporary structure on a site to the north east of the stadium including vacant derelict land and the existing car park is considered to constitute a stopgap solution to accommodate indoor trade fairs until such time that the Convention Centre indicated in policy NWTQ 36 becomes operational, given that the lease of land at Naxxar for the use of Trade Fairs is to expire shortly.

“13.27 Over recent years the increased activities related to the Malta International Trade Fair have rendered the Naxxar Fair Grounds unsuitable for the purpose. These grounds are today fully utilised with no space left for growth and expansion. The inability of the existing halls and open areas in Naxxar to adapt to modern fair needs, as they were not originally designed for multi-purpose use, further exacerbates the problem. The relocation into newly built premises will enable the development of new fair grounds in a manner and design ensuring far more versatile uses and activities. The strategic location of Ta’ Qali in the central part of the island with good links to the arterial road network make the area a suitable location for a new Trade Fair.”

Now we have Mr Paul Abela and his company TFEA Ltd who, as we write this letter are setting up the old Trade Fair grounds for an event which is supposedly to be held later on this month (February) and with many more planned fairs to follow. Mr Abela was quoted by this same newspaper as saying “the only person who will stop me from achieving my goal is God”. Something is definitely wrong here.

Apart from the legal issues we would also like to remind all Naxxar residents and also those in the surrounding areas, that within one year of Trade Fairs organised between September 2006 and July 2007, the total numbers of visitors reached 372,000 whilst the number of days utilised by fairs was 67. This excludes all the heavy vehicles used before and after each fair, any parties, discos and other specialised fairs. It is very easy to deduce the number of cars driving through Naxxar; the fumes; the noise; the traffic; the time spent in traffic to get home for us residents, etc...

The Naxxar Local Council has unanimously objected to the possibility of the return of the fairs to Naxxar. We now expect MEPA to come out and stand by what is documented on their side, what they are paid for and commissioned when they approve such plans.

This letter is brought to you by the administrators of the Facebook Group ‘We do not want the Trade Fair back at Naxxar’.

Stanley Fenech

Andrew Grech

Naxxar

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