NEWS | Sunday, 18 November 2007

Keep the cows away, says Siggiewi mayor

James Debono

The views expressed by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage on the heritage value of a former World War II airfield, which the government wants to develop as mega cow farm, cannot be overlooked, Siggiewi mayor Robert Musumeci told MaltaToday.
Last week MaltaToday revealed that the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage had written to MEPA objecting to the development of 17 cow farms and a manure treatment plant in the historic airfield.
The proposal is spearheaded by the Ministry for the Environment and Rural Affairs but will have to pass the test of an Environment Impact Assessment.
The Ministry’s intention is that of relocating a number of cow farms currently situated next to schools, homes and in other historical sites like the Cottonera lines.
But speaking to MaltaToday last week, Superintendent Anthony Pace described the site as “unique in the Mediterranean” and called on the authorities to transfer the land to the aviation museum.
Both the Superintendence and the Aviation Museum have identified the site as a potential tourist attraction where millionaires could park their vintage aircraft.
The airfield was used by allied forces during the liberation of Italy from fascism.
During a scoping meeting with MEPA held last month, Musumeci said that if the proposed site is of a high conservation value, the applicant should opt for a different location. He had also made it clear that he would object to the proposal if the site turns out to be of a unique historical value.
Vice Mayor Karol Aquilina also argued that the site should be conserved rather than developed, and all historical features should be preserved.
During the same meeting, Superintendent for Fortifications Stephen Spiteri said the site is the only one in Malta which is rich in World War II military features, and therefore it has a significant historical value.
The same airfield proposed for the mega cow farm is at present leased to poultry producer Edward Borg, who now wants to develop it as an equestrian centre.
Borg’s lease expires in nine years’ time but the government has already declared that it wants to terminate it.
Contacted by MaltaToday Borg expressed his willingness to address heritage concerns in his new proposal, insisting that the proposed project will not generate any negative environmental impacts. Borg wants to develop the land into two racetracks, stables, a polo arena, a horse hospital, as well as shops and restaurants.
He also claims that the project would attract rich Nordic tourists who can leave their horses in Malta during the cold winter months.
“It will embellish the area and become accessible to the public in general, local and tourists alike,” Borg told MaltaToday.
He insists that two hangars will remain intact and adequately refurbished.
“I will seek advice of the relevant authorities and implement what they tell me.”
He also promises to refurbish the Nissan huts, insisting that the other structures in the area do not have any heritage value.
Borg is still angry that he was completely left out of the picture even if his lease expires in 2015.
“Had it not been for the publication of ‘Il-Ġens’ on 19 May 2007, I would still be unaware of these intentions.”
After he vented his anger in the press, two meetings were held between Borg and government officials.
“If there is goodwill from the Ministries concerned, an agreeable solution for all should be forthcoming, ” Borg said. “On the other hand, however positive I may be, my past experience have taught me not to count my chickens before they hatch.”

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