Sunday, 21 June 2009

Fomm ir-Rih and coastal areas to be rendered accessible

From the Malta Independent 21st June 2009

‘Fomm ir-Rih and coastal areas to be rendered accessible’ – PS Jason Azzopardi

The lawyer of the Lands Department and the Bahrija Trust’s legal representative are to meet on 1 July to “amicably” discuss access to Fomm ir-Rih Bay, which to date cannot be enjoyed by the public because a path leading to the beach has been blocked.

Speaking to The Malta Independent on Sunday the Parliamentary Secretary in charge of Lands, Jason Azzopardi, said that the land in question was definitely private. However, a dispute on who is supposed to remove obstacles from the path is currently going on. Dr Azzopardi pointed out that the Government Property Division has left no stone unturned and hopes that good sense will prevail. In fact, GPD officials looked up records dating back 1715 in order to identify the owner of the land in question.

The case has been going on since last summer when the Ramblers Association of Malta lodged complaints and held protests that public access to Fomm ir-Rih Bay was denied. GPD carried out a complicated research process, which went on till April, and found out that the Bahrija Trust, administered by BOV, was in charge of the matter. The department thus sent a letter calling for them to clear the path. However, no reply was given.

In May, GPD filed a judicial letter and the Bahrija Trust said in reply some two or three weeks ago, that they had agreed to meet and discuss the matter.

Following the 1 July meeting, parties hope to reach agreement on how to restore the path leading to Fomm ir-Rih Bay.

However, if no agreement is reached, the government might take action against the different parties involved with the ultimate aim of making the area fully accessible to the public.

The Fomm ir-Rih case is not an isolated one because in September last year, Dr Azzopardi received complaints of an alleged illegal development close to Gnejna. Thus, the GPD decided to register a vast stretch of land between Gnejna and Bahrija since title of land was not clear. The stretch included foreshore and coastal areas.

In October, GPD started to receive cautions that substantial parts of the land were owned by the private sector. Individuals produced records and wills showing ownership of land, some even dating back to 1695, a century after the Great Siege.

Dr Azzopardi thus asked for specific legal advice on the way forward since after a tedious process of record verification, wills and claims seemed valid.

Only last week, the government was advised to return the privately owned land but not the foreshore.

Dr Azzopardi himself feels very strongly that the foreshore or coastal areas should remain government property and therefore accessible for public enjoyment, even though a particular individual has claimed that some of the foreshore belongs to his family.

Further details will be published in an interview with Parliamentary Secretary for Revenues and Lands, Jason Azzopardi in tomorrow’s issue of The Malta Independent

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