Lights out at campsite
One of Malta’s only two legal campsites cannot offer a full-blown luxury camping experience as it has to rely on generators for electricity supply.
The Malta Campsite, situated right at the tip of L-Aħrax in Mellieħa, in an area known as Torri l-Abjad, can accommodate about 100 camping spots but the electricity supply grid in the area can only cater for four caravans.
Vince Vella, owner of the multipurpose campsite, which offers space for caravans, mobile homes and tents against a fee, said that he had to switch on a generator every day.
“For the past eight years, we have been operating 90 per cent on generators, on a daily basis. There is no proper electricity supply. What there is only caters for street lights,” he said.
This is a stumbling block for the campsite, which offers mobile homes with power point facilities and other amenities such as a laundry room. “I have to restrict the power and cannot offer all the facilities that this €2 million site is equipped with.”
The power problem stems from the fact that there is no electricity substation in the area and, earlier this year, the planning authority refused a permit for such a substation in the area.
“There is no sufficient justification for the proposed development of a substation in this particular site, which will take up further virgin land outside the development zone,” a spokesperson for the Malta Environment and Planning Authority said.
But Mr Vella believes that this decision is influenced by the 400 or so illegal boat houses in the Armier area. “Until they are regularised, then, no new substation will be built in the north of Malta,” he said, explaining that the problem does not only affect him but about 60 farmers in the area. “They need to use their water pumps,” he said.
The absence of a substation also means there are no drainage facilities. “I have to use a cesspit, meaning additional costs to get a bowser to clean it up,” he said.
Illegal boat houses resort to digging holes in the ground and then throw it in the sea. “The sea is a mess in summer here,” he said.
The Maltese character being what it is, he said, the demand for electricity supply when camping is very high. “The problem with the Maltese is that the concept of camping is not exactly back to nature: they bring with them their grillioso, toaster and washing machine,” he said.
“I’d need a whole power station to cater for those needs,” he joked, adding that it is not the first time that campers bring in their sofas and armchairs.
“They want to carry their houses to the campsite,” he said.
This seems to be an issue even for the other official campsite in Għajn Tuffieħa run by the Scout Association of Malta.
The scouts say that campers are allowed to make reasonable use of the water and electricity points available at the campsite, provided that the usage is “reasonable”. “For the record, we do not consider washing your car, filling up jerrycans of water to use off-site, use of flood lights or any other high-consumption appliance to be reasonable use in a campsite,” they say.
Where can you camp – legally – in Malta?
The only legal places to camp are the Malta Campsite in Mellieħa and Għajn Tuffieħa Scouts’ sites, both against payment. Once you register you are allotted a camping spot.
There is no formal list of legal camping sites. “A site either has full development permission as a camping site, such as the Torri l-Abjad and Għajn Tuffieħa (scouts) sites, or it doesn’t,” said a Mepa spokesperson.
It is possible, however, to organise one-off camping activities. If these are within a special conservation area, permission from the planning authority as well as the local council is needed.
If the site is not in such a zone, then the local council by-laws and the Police Code would apply.
Local councils and government agencies can submit applications for caravan and camping sites between June 1 and September 30, as long as they are accompanied by management plans that show how waste and litter are disposed. This is the method applied for the site in Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq.