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Blast victims’ family drop their plans for new factory

The remains of the Għarb fireworks factory that blew up two years ago. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

The remains of the Għarb fireworks factory that blew up two years ago. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Plans to rebuild the Għarb fireworks factory that blew up two years ago, claiming the lives of six people, have been scrapped.

Relatives of five members of the same family who died in the massive explosion did not follow up a planning request filed last year to renew the permit for the factory, so it fell through.

The request to rebuild had anyhow not been met favourably by the planning directorate, which last year informed the applicants that the “proposed development is unacceptable in principle”.

A spokesperson for the planning authority said that “the request for the renewal of the permit was not followed up by the architect or applicant and, consequently, was withdrawn”.

The Għarb factory was destroyed in September 2010 on the eve of the Xagħra feast, claiming the lives of six people: owner Nenu Farrugia, 67, his two sons Noel, 31, and Raymond, 32, daughter-in-law Antinette, son-in-law Peter Paul Micallef, 35, and 27-year-old family friend Jean Pierre Azzopardi.

The explosion, which had been the second deadly one in the span of a month, gave rise to an inquiry to investigate possible causes and also a referendum in Għarb where about 60 per cent of residents voted against rebuilding the factory.

The request to rebuild was not deemed acceptable because, according to the Gozo and Comino local plan, there is a general presumption against the construction of new fireworks factories in an area of high landscape sensitivity.

Meanwhile, soon after the factory exploded, the Farrugias had won an appeal to remove a condition imposed in the 2006 permit to insure the chapel of San Dimitri.

The condition had stated: “The applicant shall insure the Chapel of San Dimitri, at his own expense, against the eventuality of damage due to explosion of this fireworks factory.

“The insurance shall be renewed throughout the entire lifetime of the fireworks factory. A copy of renewal of insurance shall be submitted to the planning authority upon each renewal.

“The insurance shall be in place prior to the commencement of use of the fireworks factory”.

The planning authority informed members of the Farrugia family last week that it had followed up the decision, taken by the Environment and Planning Tribunal, and removed the condition.

Earlier this year, a request to build a fourth fireworks factory in Għarb was turned down because it was unjustified and on a protected site.

In his report, the case officer pointed out there were another three factories including the one owned by the Farrugias.

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