Press Release: 11.06.09
NGOs call for PM’s direct intervention.
The Ramblers’ Association of Malta, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar and Nature Trust Malta call for urgent direct intervention by the Prime Minister, as Minister responsible for the MEPA, to stop what they consider to be flagrant disregard of the Structure Plan and its Policies by unaccountable MEPA boards.
The three NGOs unreservedly condemn the MEPA decision to grant building permission for a rustic house directly on the valley floor of Wied tal-Bahrija
The MEPA website cites the valley as a Special Area of Conservation for its ecological and scientific importance under the Habitats Directive. It clarifies that the “Bahrija valley system supports typical watercourse vegetation and several rare and endangered species as well as endemic ones with a restricted distribution in the Maltese Islands.” The Wied Rini and Wied il-Bahrija watercourse is classified as “one of the most important freshwater habitats in the Maltese Islands.”
The NGOs question the infringement of all 16 policies contemplated in the Structure Plan with respect to Rural Conservation Areas, to Areas of Scenic Value, to Areas of Agricultural Value, to Ecology and to Valleys that were violated in the granting of this permit?
“The Structure Plan adopts a blanket prohibition of development in rural areas, except for legitimate uses (like agriculture development), as described in Para 7.6 of the Structure Plan; the Structure Plan does not envisage growth in settlements ODZ.”
What ‘legitimate uses’ criteria drove the various MEPA boards from overturning every time all recommendations for refusal by the technical officers?
The NGOs cannot understand how the permit allows the construction on the valley floor, two meters away from the water course of such unique ecological and scientific importance. The construction itself will furthermore ruin the scenic value of the pristine valley. The negative impact will be aggravated by the infrastructural works required by the development (water, electricity and drainage) as the site is only served by a concrete country road.
The NGOs stress the fact that the Structure Plan stipulates that in order to protect the countryside, a “blanket prohibition of urbanisation outside existing and planned urban areas as designated in the Plan is designed to prevent the development of any structures or activities in rural areas other than those legitimate and natural to them” Certainly in the case of this permit, the NGOs maintain that the structure approved is neither legitimate nor natural to the Bahrija valley.
Only the Prime Minister’s intervention can save the Bahrija valley for posterity.