ERA drops objections to Siggiewi shooting range

​The Environmental and Resources Authority has dropped its previous objection to a 5,200sq.m shooting range in Siggiewi, proposed outside development zones

The Environmental and Resources Authority has dropped its previous objection to a 5,200sq.m shooting range in Siggiewi, proposed outside development zones.

The range will be situated inside a disused but largely backfilled quarry in an area at Ta’ Bur ix-Xewk in Siggiewi, in very close proximity to the Arka ta’ Noe zoo and 270m away from residential areas.

As proposed by landowner Antoine Vella, the shooting bays will be constructed in a basement level beneath a car park and a clubhouse.

The quarry was only used for the extraction of limestone for five years and was partly backfilled and left abandoned for over 35 years.

The portion in-filled in the past is covered with soil and used for agricultural purposes. The quarry is then surrounded by agricultural land and other quarries east and south of the site.

The site also lies on the groundwater safeguard zone, 500m away from two environmentally sensitive valleys, Wied Xkora and Wied Qirda. The latter is protected as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) of national importance.

A year ago ERA had warned against the introduction of “new development commitments” in this rural area, insisting that the entire quarry should be rehabilitated back to agricultural land.

While the ERA had objected to the excavation of the already backfilled parts of the quarry to accommodate the shooting range, in a screening report it now claims that following “further evaluation” it had decided that the site is not as incompatible with “the proposed after-use as initially perceived”.

Instead ERA asked for more studies and photo montages a study on how noise from the shooting range would impact on receptors, and an expert opinion on the potential contamination from ammunition waste generated from the shooting activities on site.

The proposed shooting range will cater for various target-shooting disciplines through four different shooting bays, including a dynamic shooting bay, two bays for pistol bull’s eye training, and one for rimfire benchrest and centre-fire benchrest disciplines.

Built over a 5,100sq.m footprint the range includes storage and sanitary facilities, a clubhouse, a parking area for 73 spaces, hard and soft landscaping.

The proponents claim that the main objective is to address “the need of professional and state-of-the-art shooting ranges in Malta” which can help in the professional training of security personnel and as a sports discipline.

Vella said the area will be restored by its landscaping and thanks to its flatness, limit any visual impact, since it can only be seen from the country road Triq tal-Ghaqba.

Vella said he will reduce noise impact by shielding the shooting lines in all the bays from the upper car park and road levels by an overlying concrete slab and the natural rock walls of the excavated quarry.

The concrete and timber slabs will serve to deflect any errant rounds into the range’s ground soft layer, which will absorb most of the energy of the round.

Architect Daniel Micallef, the Labour Party deputy leader, is responsible for the design and supervision of the proposed project.

A similar proposal made in 2016 was withdrawn after the PA’s planning directorate recommended refusal for being in breach of the local plan, which stipulates that disused quarries should be converted back to agricultural use.

A draft policy regulating the development of shooting ranges published in 2015 limits the number of shooting ranges to “one national shooting range” which meets international standards while foreseeing a number of smaller shooting ranges.

The policy foresees the location of such development in disused quarries, derelict land and military installations.