Monday, 13 June 2005

19 organisations support Minister’s comments about Bahrija

From the Malta Independent 13th June 2005

19 organisations support Minister’s comments about Bahrija
A total of 19 organisations have supported a statement by Environment Minister George Pullicino concerning Bahrija and Fomm ir-Rih who said: “We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to keep this area as open countryside”.

Recent events, rumours and misleading advertising of the area have given rise to concerns about the uncertain future of this unique locality which seemed to be the target of speculation.

The organisations concerned include Moviment Graffitti, Nature Trust, Friends of the Earth Malta, Ceratonia, Pembroke Residents Association, Grupp Arkeologiku Malti, Din l-Art Helwa, Malta Organic Agriculture Movement, The Ramblers Association of Malta, Dripht, Zminijietna, The GAIA Foundation, The Archaeological Society Malta, Inizjamed, Save Wied Garnaw Action Group, Siggiewi Action Group for the Environment , BICREF, BirdLife Malta and Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna together with political party Alternattiva Demokratika and Rabat local council mayor.

When contacted, the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage told this group that it is seriously concerned about the speculation and is closely monitoring developments. The SCH said it fully understands the concerns of the general public and NGOs regarding the further loss of part of our cultural landscape from the public domain. The Cultural Heritage Act 2002 specifically promotes access to cultural heritage, including cultural landscapes. The act devotes a whole article (4 (5) to the principle of access to the cultural heritage. In particular, this article speaks of the duty to make heritage accessible not only for research but also for public enjoyment. The act views the appreciation and awareness of cultural heritage as an important component of social inclusion.

The SCH said that its stand will be against development in the area but pointed out that it cannot, however, intervene to stop the sale of land. The area in question should be provided with the fullest protection possible. Scheduling of the area has already been made by Mepa and has been published at Grade A on the Mepa website. This means that the area is protected under the Development Planning Act and the Cultural Heritage Act 2002. The SCH has told this group that it would, therefore, intervene, along with Mepa, in the event of illegal development. All applications for development on scheduled sites have to be approved by the SCH first, according to the Cultural Heritage Act. Finally, the Cultural Heritage Act states that: “the protection, promotion and accessibility of the cultural heritage shall be given very high priority in deciding public policy in all fields of activity in Malta”.

However the organisations said they still await the full commitment by the government to declare the area from Il-Qlejgha tal-Bahrija to Gnejna as part of our common heritage and to prepare management plans for the areas as requested by EU obligations for protected sites.

The organisations also called upon the government to declare the coast, including the cliffs, as public property and to enact Structure Plan Policy CZM 03 which stipulates: “Public access around the coastline immediately adjacent to the sea or at the top of cliffs (including in bays, harbours, and creeks) will be secured. This will include taking shore lands into public ownership.”