Sunday, 17 August 2008

PS for Lands dealing with Fomm ir-Rih irregularities

From the Malta Independent 17th August 2008

PS for Lands dealing with Fomm ir-Rih irregularities

Following years of apparent neglect on the part of the authorities, newly-appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Revenues and Land Jason Azzopardi is taking the matter of land use and public access to Fomm ir-Rih in hand.

Contacted this week, Dr Azzopardi said the Government Property Division finalised a land survey of the area in question earlier this month, which will serve as the basis for discussions on the sensitive issue.

The long-standing issue of access to the picturesque bay had been brought to the fore last month when the Ramblers’ Association of Malta staged a protest over several seeming illegalities in the area, including the blocking of a public pathway to the bay’s foreshore by the owners of a private residence.

Dr Azzopardi is to meet with the Ramblers’ Association early next month to discuss the irregularities highlighted, with a new land survey of the area.

Dr Azzopardi said he had not been aware of the serious problems of accessibility and degradation of the countryside before RAM staged its protest on 31 July to highlight the issues.

He said he had not met Ramblers’ representatives since his appointment as Parliamentary Secretary for Revenues and Land after the 8 March general election.

Although Dr Azzopardi had attempted to meet with RAM before the protest was held, his efforts proved futile.

He then instructed a team from the Government Property Division to go on site and carry out a survey in order to assess the situation in the area.

“This survey,” which Dr Azzopardi said was ready within two days of the protest, “will be the basis for discussions.”

During its protest, the organisation had promised its members that a more aggressive approach would be taken in the coming months since “years of complaints (about the state of affairs in the area) and various objections have proved futile”. A group of 60 ramblers had walked down to the bay to find that the public pathway had been completely obliterated.

The protest took place in view of several illegalities, which included the building of a concrete road outside the gate of a private residence and broken boulders strewn across a road leading to the foreshore, before a development application had been filed with the Malta Environment and Planning Authority.

After the application to sanction the illegalities was dismissed, work on a gate and rubble walls was carried out, as well as landscaping. Invasive trees such as ailanthus, acacia and eucalyptus were planted recently, RAM said.

In a letter to the Director General, Government Property Division, RAM had said the protest was the culmination of years of complaints, objections and futile efforts regarding the situation at Fomm ir-Rih. This explained that while “sympathy and lip-service” were forthcoming from various ministers and authorities, “proceedings on the ground worsened, with the situation deteriorating to unprecedented illegality”.

RAM said it felt the necessity to convey this message at the end of its programme of walks, because of its concern that matters in the open areas of Malta are getting out of hand.

The organisation had urged the Government Property Division to “immediately re-establish the public path from the Bahrija side to the foreshore of the bay which was conceded by public deed of 1983 but never maintained”.

Similarly, RAM called for action to restore the countryside and foreshore to a natural state by removing signs, gates and other obstacles put up without permission to prevent or limit access to the public, restore blocked pathways and country lanes and stop the ecological damage being caused by unauthorised building and the illicit plantation of invasive trees and plants.

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