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MALTATODAY 8 January 2023

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2 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 8 JANUARY 2023 NEWS CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 The existing Ta' Lambert run- way will be extended from its current 174 metres, to a total length of 445m and a safety ar- ea of 30m on each end of the airstrip. Exempting the project from an EIA, the ERA instead rec- ommended "preventive mitiga- tion measures" such as "careful consideration" on the design of the boundary walls to minimise the impact on the rural land- scape character, adequate ons- ite parking, charging facilities for electric cars and airplanes, park-and-ride services, and bi- cycle racks to promote "alter- native modes of transport to alleviate traffic". The proposed airfield will enable the introduction of an inter-island service between Gozo and the Malta Interna- tional Airport (MIA) operating between 6am and 1am. The use of the airfield by other aircraft will be limited to 30 minutes af- ter sunrise to 30 minutes before sunset. The runway dimensions pre- clude the operation of medium and large-sized aircraft. But up to 15 daily aircraft movements are expected for the airfield, with three areas for parking facilities for light aircraft that can be surfaced with a rein- forced-grass paving system. The ERA said the upgrade and extension of the runway and the construction of the aprons will take up an approximate area of 40,000sq.m, which is currently covered by soil. Around 6,000 cubic metres of topsoil will be excavated, and partly re-used on site and for nearby agricul- tural land. Since the area is already zoned for airport-related activities, the environmental watchdog has "no significant concerns re- lating to the land use." Climate impact not assessed Chiefly absent in any studies is the effect of projected increase in air traffic, which has been deemed to have a significant on air quality. The ERA stopped short of making the electrifica- tion of the aircraft fleet for the inter-island service, mandato- ry. The ERA's report also fails to assess the project in terms of climate change obligations de- spite preliminary studies by the Gozo Regional Authority show- ing that carbon emissions gen- erated by aircraft using the air- field will be more than double the emissions of cars travelling from the Malta airport to Gozo. The Gozo Ministry says any provider will be "encouraged" to adopt an all-electric fleet by 2025, a specification that will be included in the tender. But plans also foresee an open-air, small-scale fuelling depot by the general aviation aircraft. Two 1,000-litre capacity mobile tanks are being proposed to be placed on an impermeable con- crete surface. The ministry also provided an ornithological report authored by MCAST lecturer Natalino Fenech, which claims the air- field works pose no "foresee- able risk on birds" but recom- mends a number of measures aimed at minimising light and noise pollution. The ERA still concluded that the impact on protected bird species inhabiting the protect- ed Ta' Ċenċ coastal cliffs re- mains "unclear" and called for an "appropriate assessment" to assess this impact. The ERA also called for a noise impact study aimed at modelling noise emissions during the operation of the airfield. SCH insists on archeological investigation The proposed airstrip is locat- ed in an Archaeologically Sen- sitive Area where cart ruts have been recorded 24 metres away from the site in question. Given the archaeological sensitivity of the area, the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage has called for the soil-covered areas to be archaeologically evaluated be- fore any planning decisions are taken. "In the absence of the request- ed archaeological evaluation, this application cannot be ad- equately assessed and should therefore not be approved prior to the evaluation," the SCH said in its first reaction to the pro- posed development. Xewkija is rich in archaeolog- ical remains, to the extent that archaeologist David Trump had noted "several fine pairs" of cart ruts in the olive grove west of the pumping station, just south of Xewkija, not far away away from the proposed airstrip. In 1948, the newspaper Il-Berqa revealed that parts of these cart ruts were vandalised when ex- plosives were used to clear the ground for the olive grove. 60 years later, most of the area identified for the project became the subject of an en- forcement order issued in 2010 against the dumping of material without a permit. The enforce- ment is still considered an "ac- tive case" as no action was ever taken to remove the dumped material from the area. The planning enforcement was issued following a re- port against continuous illegal dumping in the area filed by Alternattiva Demokratika in 2008. The party had warned that the authorities were turn- ing a blind eye on dumping to justify the development of an airstrip. Ta' Lambert runway to be extended from 174m to 445m for light aircraft Thank you... for having bought this newspaper The good news is that we're not raising the price of our newspaper We know times are still hard, but we have pledged to keep giving our readers quality news they deserve, without making you pay more for it. So thank you, for making it your MaltaToday Support your favourite newspaper with a special offer on online PDF subscriptions. Visit or scan the QR code Subscriptions can be done online on Same-day delivery at €1 for orders up to 5 newspapers per address. Subscribe from €1.15 a week Same-day print delivery from Miller Distributors mt

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