Saturday, 30 January 2010

Qawra-Wardija Walk Sat 30th January 2010

Walk Leader: Gunter

Photos Courtesy of Alfred Camilleri.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

The first villa in Bahrija Valley

A vision of the future! This is just a photomontage for now, but might soon be real. Then, what next in this valley? More villas until the whole valley becomes a residential area?

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Ramblers take Bahrija development case to court

From the Times online: Tuesday, 26th January 2010 - 12:56CET

The development at Bahrija.

Ramblers take Bahrija development case to court
The Ramblers Association has filed a judicial protest against Mepa calling on it to stop work on Victor Scerri's property in Bahrija. It also warned of further action should the Authority fail to take decisive action.
In their protest, the Ramblers argued that the Bahrija site enjoyed the highest possible level of protection, yet over the years four building permits had been issued for it. The fourth was revoked by Mepa last August.
The Ramblers insisted that the first two permits were no longer valid because five years had elapsed since they were issued, and the third permit did not allow any building works, because it was only an amendment to a clause of the second permit regarding limitations on demolition.
The fact that the third permit had been issued to amend the second did not mean an extension of the validity of the second permit, the Ramblers' Association said. Mepa, therefore, should not allow further work on the site.
The Ramblers also claimed that the building works were violating the restoration method statement and the development plans were lacking important details, such as the location of the cistern, which was to be built outside the footprint of the proposed development.
While the developer's site plans showed the site to be flat, there was actually a significant gradient, the Ramblers said. This fact had been pointed out in June last year by the Authority's own head of enforcement, who had said the applicant should submit an application for an amendment and stop works in the meantime, But even this advice was ignored.
The Association called on Mepa to immediately stop the works and revoke the third permit to avoid further misunderstandings.


Joseph V. Grech (14 hours, 50 minutes ago)
Ramblers are doing the right thing. They should consider putting this case in foreign newspapers and (if possible) objecting with the E.U. This case shows how inefficient Mepa is. Prime minister Gonzi's inaction is scandalous. As for the contribution by George Cutajar , implying that such a scandalous ''development'' is OK simply because it has a ''valid Mepa permit'' does not convince: we all know how many illogical and harmful permits were obtained over the years. It is such a pity that Victor Scerri decided to build a residence at this precise spot! Simply barbaric!

Joseph Calleja (19 hours, 49 minutes ago)
In all fairness, I think that since there is a judicial protest against Mepa calling on it to stop work on Victor Scerri's property in Bahrija, the court is obliged to stop all work at this property till the court decides what is right or wrong. This should have been done a long time ago, ever since the first protest was made. Dr Scerri and The NGO have to abide by the court's decision, in the meantime stop the work and wait for the courts outcome.

Charles J. Buttigieg (20 hours, 15 minutes ago)
@ G.PisaniI don't know what Joseph Muscat has in his mind but if the accusations of illegality are founded and ignored by the property owner with the blessing of Mepa and the Government,then the new administration would be an accessory to the illegal act if it does nothing about it.

George Cutajar (20 hours, 19 minutes ago)
The Ramblers seem to ramble on and on labouring under the impression that they will stop this development or get MEPA to stop it. The works are being carried out under a valid MEPA and any objections to it should have been filed many moons ago - that is when the application was filed. I think it is about time that we put our hands on our heart and be honest with oneself - don't we all wish that Victor Scerri's land, permit and all belonged to us. And if that was so would we not be doing the same? The Rambler's seem to put forward a totalitarian concept of land ownership but that is not on in this day and age. Do they expect to ramble on private land if this happens to be i the countryside and privately owned? Anyway I am convinced that once Victor Scerri's development is finished there will be no scars left on the land and all will be rehabilitated.

G.Pisani (22 hours, 10 minutes ago)
Victor Scerri should hurry up his works before the elections came up as I think Joseph Muscat is ready with his bulldozer to take this thing down once he is PM.

J Brownie (22 hours, 14 minutes ago)
What a scar in this pristine patch - my heart cries at our inability to value what really matters not for the distruction per se . All Europe is racing to conserve its natural habitat and we are hell-bent to destruct the little we have – we are simply impoverishing ourselves

John M. Grima (22 hours, 44 minutes ago)
What a shame! Of all the rocky, wasteland areas of Bahrija, why would anyone be PERMITTED to build a modern dwelling in such a beautiful, fertile, pristine area? OK this new building IS replacing another. However, the previous dwelling was a farm house, with one used bedroom/kitcheon upstars and the downstairs three rooms were used to house a cow, a mule and the other used for hay. The Government should purchase the land from the Scerri family and keep it for farming. After all, this particular area has been used for farming for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Anthony Mizzi (22 hours, 52 minutes ago)
Well done Ramblers Thanks to you, future Maltese generations may enjoy the last remaining countryside. You are just doing what the country's administration with its law enforcing powers is failing continuously to do. One just cannot blame MEPA anymore even if the blame is being shifted by the Gonzi administration to the Monster that was in turn created by Gonzi and the P.N. in Governement. MEPA is just like a hand puppet in a Punch and Judy show and we all know who the PUPETEER is even if we only see the puppets he manipulates. Doesn't one ever feel a twinge when he was elected with billboards full of green pastures?

J. Borg (22 hours, 59 minutes ago)
How much is MEPA costing the taxpayer? Taxpayers should reduce the tax they pay - and support NGOs instead in all the legal expenses and more it is incurring. Dr. Gonzi - since you are PM and responsible for MEPA - wake up pls! Dr. Muscat - sweet dreams - any chance of some effective pressure - to save this unique location!

J.Bonnici (23 hours, 2 minutes ago)
Keep up the pressure Ramblers. Sooner or later the government will have to do something to save face.

M Saliba (23 hours, 9 minutes ago)
How could it be possible that the permits were issued? Can Mepa justify its position? Who was the architect who applied for the permits?
savior cordina (1 day ago)
This association should have the backing of all maltese of good will for doing the work of mepa which is strong with the weak and weak with the strong.

lgalea (1 day ago)
3.Have a look at1. Case C-226/082. Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 (OJ L 206, p. 7), as amended by Council Directive 2006/105/EC of 20 November 2006 (OJ L 363, p. 368).

lgalea (1 day ago)
2.and definition of sites to be proposed to the Commission as SCIs without jeopardising the achievement of the objective of ecological interest at EU level. In the Commission v Ireland ruling (C-427/07), the ECJ recalled that, at the time of classification of a site in a protected area, a member state cannot take into account economic requirements to the extent that they respond to imperative reasons of overriding public interest, neither can it enact national rules, which would generally render it exempt from the obligation to carry out an impact assessment on the site of management projects that are not directly linked to, or necessary for, management of the site but are likely to affect it in a “significant manner” (Greenpeace France and Others ruling, C-6/99). More specifically, in the Commission v Luxembourg ruling (C-174/01), the ECJ considered that member states are obliged to provide, in their national law, adequate modalities for information on compensatory measures adopted in the event of realizing a project that could pose a risk to the environment, in order to allow the Commission to examine whether the said measures are likely to guarantee global coherence of Natura 2000.

lgalea (1 day ago)
In 2004, the ECJ considered that a plan or project likely to affect a protected site in a significant manner may not be authorized without prior assessment of its environmental impact. It decided that as the Habitats Directive does not define the notions of ‘plan’ and ‘project’, it is appropriate to refer to Directive 85/337/EEC on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment with a view to clarifying the notion of ‘plan’ or ‘project’ (Waddenvereniging and Vogelbeschermingsvereniging ruling, C 127/02 and Dragaggi and Others ruling, C 117/03).In 2006, the ECJ recalled that, from the moment a site is included in a national list transmitted to the Commission with a view to its inclusion in the SCI list, it must be exempt from any intervention likely to compromise its ecological nature (Bund Naturschutz in Bayern and Others ruling, C 244/05). Furthermore, in its Linster ruling (C-287/98), The ECJ specified that the Habitats Directive (92/43 at the time) must be interpreted in the sense that a member state cannot take into account economic, social and cultural requirements, as well as regional and local characteristics, at the time of the selection

J Magro (1 day, 1 hour ago)
When is the book about this Saga coming out?

Charles J. Buttigieg (1 day, 1 hour ago)
The building looks like a nuclear shelter to me.

P.Cassar (1 day, 1 hour ago)

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Bahrija Development - Clay Dumping

With reference to the previous blog, here are some photos of the dumped clay.

Clay from Baħrija site dumped illegally - Ramblers

Clay from Baħrija site dumped illegally - Ramblers

Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

The Ramblers' Association yesterday alleged that clay excavated and removed from the Baħrija site belonging to former Nationalist Party president Victor Scerri was illegally dumped on public land.

Journalists were taken to a site in Landrijiet, limits of Baħrija, where a large swathe of garigue area was smoothed over with clay allegedly deposited there by trucks coming from Dr Scerri's site. Dr Scerri's architect, Robert Musumeci, said the allegations were news to him. "I am unaware of any illegality to this effect," he said when contacted.

Ramblers' Association president Lino Bugeja and secretary Alex Vella said they and two other unnamed witnesses had followed the trucks to the site and estimated that about 400 cubic metres of clay were deposited there.

The site is in an area identified by government for the construction of wind energy turbines.

Mr Bugeja said the excavation of clay and its removal from the Baħrija site went against the Malta Environment and Planning Authority's policies and called on the authority to stop the works.

"We want to save this site from further destruction because we fear that this construction would set a precedent for other development in the area," Mr Bugeja said, insisting a Natura 2000 site had to be accorded the highest level of protection.

He insisted that Mepa seemed to be unaware of the amount of excavation that took place on the site because in the original plans submitted by Dr Scerri's architect no reference was made to the site's varying levels.

Mr Musumeci was unfazed by this accusation. "So far, works have been carried out according to a valid permit," he said.

The latest allegations are a continuation of the long-drawn saga, which erupted on the eve of the European Parliament elections last year.

When asked, Mr Bugeja denied the association's actions amounted to a crusade against Dr Scerri. "We have nothing against Dr Scerri. All we are interested in is protecting the environment for us and future generations," he said.

Dr Scerri's construction, a farmhouse, is covered byMepa permits. The development is situated at the bottom of the valley, which is a designated Natura 2000 site.

In August last year, Mepa had revoked the last permit issued to Dr Scerri for an extension after it was discovered that an environmental screening process was ignored.

However, the other permits for the reconstruction of a farmhouse remained in place.


Romano Cassar (1 hour, 39 minutes ago)
J Farrugia, in his infinite wisdom, says: "lil Victor Scerri ma jriduhx jirranga l-post li kellu hemmhekk". Check out this link for some photos of the supposed dwelling that was in the area:
If every "dwelling" like this were to be replaced with a villa, our little remaining countryside would be chock⋅a⋅block with buildings.
Does Mr or Ms J Farrugia know (or care) how many environmental and development regulations and policies were broken, with the blessing of the MEPA DCC board, in order to approve these four applications?
Has he or she ever visited the area to try to comprehend the magnitude of this sacrilege?
Will he or she ever ever learn to view issues other than in a partisan political manner?
Will he or she ever realise that this sort of development actually means that something is being stolen, with the blessing of the government, from the general citizen?

RJCostigan (2 hours, 44 minutes ago)

Lino why don't you collect some clay and make some.....

J.Bonnici (7 hours, 49 minutes ago)
This issue will continue to haunt the Nationalist Party for decades. It's immoral and should never have happened.
c. camilleri (8 hours, 41 minutes ago)
Oh please Lino stop this persecution of Dr. Scerri. There are so much more interesting things to do.
James A. Tyrrell (9 hours, 24 minutes ago)
I think the name that has to be remembered here is that of architect, Robert Musumeci. He is the person who drew up the plans for this structure. He is the person who somehow made the site in the plans appear to be level rather than the varying levels, which are in fact the reality at this site. He is the person who is supposed to be on site on a regular basis to monitor the build process yet he has no idea of the illegal activities taking place there. Of course he doesn't. I hope all environmentally aware people avoid this architect like a bad plague in future because by his own admission he doesn’t seem to know very much and appears to care even less.
Raymond Sammut (9 hours, 31 minutes ago)
The 70-page document "Managing Natura 2000 Sites" shows that this "reconstruction" of the farmhouse is contravening the relative directives. Once the area had been designated a Natura 2000 site, the old farmhouse had to be demolished and cleared, and not rebuilt on a concrete foundation embedded deep in the ground. Considering also the amount of public objection that has been expressed in the past, one has to draw attention to the following:

"Directive 92/43/EEC does not indicate when it is appropriate to obtain the opinion of the general public. However, consultation of the public is an essential feature of Directive 85/337/EEC. Clearly therefore, where the assessment required by Article 6(3) takes the form of an assessment under Directive 85/337/EEC, public consultation is necessary."

Is there a record of the assessment? Was the assessment carried out under Directive 85/337/EEC? If not, then why? And if yes, how much public consultation took place before this reconstruction went ahead?

This reconstruction of the old farmhouse in a Natura 2000 zone is clearly objectionable, and constitutes a gross encroachment upon the habitat. It should never have been allowed to go ahead and should be stopped.

D.MANGION (10 hours, 8 minutes ago)

Your efforts to try to justify the unjustifiable manages to beat even Radio 101 and Net TV put together.

Why should the Ramblers explain the developments of Bahrija and it's environs. That's Mepa's job. The same MEPA that your beloved "safe pair of hands" took under his reponsibility following a certificate of failure to Dr. George Pullicino.

If those pooled villas of Bahrija bother you, go and tell it to the person who took Mepa under his safe strong hands. But I'm sure you wouldn't. Your irrational fanatism would even glorify PN even if it ordered the execution of your own family. You would say that it is a necessary measure in order to prevent overpopulation.


J Farrugia (12 hours, 39 minutes ago)
jista Lino Bugeja u r-rablers tieghu jghidulna ta min hi dik il-korsa kbira li hemm fil-Bahrija korsa illegali u ghaliex tinsab hemm? JKistghu ir-ramblers jghidulna ta' min huma dawk il-villel kbar bil-gonna maghhom li hemm fil-Bahrija bis-swimming pools ecc u ghaliex inbnew hemm u lil Victor Scerri ma jriduhx jirranga l-post li kellu hemmhekk? Jeklk wiehed jidhol fil-Google earth malajr jara l-ipokresija tar-ramblers u tal-ambjentalisti u jara li haddiehor jista jibni u victor scerri naghmlulu hajtu nfern.

Siggiewi walk 23 January, 2010

Some photos from this walk, courtesy of Alfred Farrugia.

Walk Leader: Sammy

Hotmail: Free, trusted and rich email service. Get it now.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Gnejna area walk - 20th Jan 2010

Some photos from today's walk, led by Gunter.

Photos courtesy of Alfred Camilleri

Walking towards Gnejna

Approaching Lippija Tower

Lippija Tower

Blue seas

Ramblers on the move

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Ramblers renew call for Bahrija works to be stopped

From The Times of Monday, 18th January 2010

The Ramblers' Association (RAM) has renewed its call for the Prime Minister and Mepa to stop the controversial works on Victor Scerri's property in Bahrija valley.

It said works were continuing despite evident harm to the valley.

The association recalled that four applications had been submitted for the development. All were recommended for refusal by the Planning Directorate but the refusals were overturned by the Development Control Commission and permits were issued for each one. However, after protests by ENGOs, the last permit was overturned by the MEPA board in August 2009.

"RAM still believes that all four permits should have been withdrawn, and not just the last one. In any case, RAM believes that the 2002 PA permit, issued in January 2003, is long past its five-year validity period, and had therefore expired long before the works started. Furthermore the 2004 application did not ask for an extension of the 2003 permit, but simply “to delete Condition 3 in order to confirm with condition 1 in PA 6321/02," the association said.

The association said it is calling on the Prime Minister, as the minister responsible for MEPA, to use whatever jurisdiction he has over MEPA to stop the works forthwith.

g.c.Forte (15 hours, 21 minutes ago)
@ Anthony Borg...I am not saying that RAM,or any other NGO`s protecting our environment are doing wrong, on the contrary, God bless them. What I mean is that the way we do our politics is rotten. If you think that the voter looks at these things during elections,forget it my friend, look at J.P.O.`s case.........after Mistra comedy he was elected strongly from two district, @ G. Debono.....Yes that is what I am saying. What did the labour did in Dr. Alfred Sant v.s. J.P.O,case ? Who supported him?, besides one labour journalist. I am old enough to tell you...Yes it is a matter of scratching the backs,because instead of Dr. Muscat goes every Sunday preaching at the L.P clubs, he should go to parliament and make a " strong and serious stand ", to stop this government ruining our land. I do believe that certain P.N. members in parliament are doing a better job than the opposition. Any way good luck ramblers and need it.
S Zammit (1 day, 4 hours ago)
@MEPA isthu jekk tafu kif....SHAME that such rape of Bahrija valley goes unnoticed. Just to let you know that the MALTESE freshwater crab lives metres away from this development. It is endemic and endangered and certainly such development is not going to help it. Is this how we protect our biodiversity?by building a ''farmhouse'' just near its home? Well done ramblers and other NGO's for trying to protect our environment.
Saviour Grech (1 day, 4 hours ago)
Please please Mr Prime Minister do something will you?
Anthony Borg (1 day, 4 hours ago)
More than any other single factor, I think the (abuse) of the natural environment will be the defeat of the Nationalist Party at the next General Elections. I truly wish that in the next legislature, a third party would be represented in parliament, even if by 1 member! ..... Imagine that scenario at this point in time: this blatant arrogance would soon dispel.
J.Bonnici (1 day, 4 hours ago)
The prime minister said over and over again that the environment would be a priority. So how can he allow these things to happen?
G.Debono (1 day, 4 hours ago)
@G C Forte Not understanding you: Are you saying that labour is not doing nothing forceful on this because when in government that will do the same for their "blue" eyed boys and they expect the PN not to shout! foul - because it will be a case of you scratch my back, I scratch yours?
Joseph Calleja (1 day, 4 hours ago)
It seems like the more the NGOs call for a stop to this development the more the contractor adds on. I have one question. Is this work being done with a permit or is it being built illegally?. If this work is being built illegally, why don't the proper authorities stop the work immediately and let the court decide once and for all, otherwise this building will be finished before any decision is made.? Or is this one of those business as usual extensions?
m micallef (1 day, 4 hours ago)
MEPA reform or whitewash?
Anthony Borg (1 day, 5 hours ago)
@ g.c.Forte Mr. Forte, I strongly disagree with your comment “RAM..........I think that you are wasting your time”! Were it not for such dedicated organizations, much, much more destruction of the environment would go on shamelessly. Ramblers Association and Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar are the people's’ voice confronting an arrogant government. “These things should be remembered at election time and opposition must air its views” – yes Mr Saviour Cordina, I wholeheartedly concur. No amount of “icing on the cake” as general elections approach would change my mind on this issue, and I would make sure to influence as many “floating voters” as possible. And let the party in Opposition take heed too... in my view, it has become too complacent!
Muscat Pat (1 day, 5 hours ago)
"U l-ambjent jibda ihaddar" We will always remember how that lovely child was photo montaged, with a flower in her mouth. Hypocites!
lesley kreupl (1 day, 5 hours ago)
Surely it is obvious to everyone that any permits issued for this building must have been 'irregular', or to be more polite, 'issued by mistake'! The incumbent Government and especially MEPA, should admit to irregularities and force work to stop on this site immediately. That this area is ODZ should have been obvious to both the owner at the time of purchase and the architect before drawing up plans. I assume neither party is illiterate.
Henry J Bonett (1 day, 5 hours ago)
The picture blatantly exposes the horrific rape that is going on in Bahrija. This is not the restoration of an old farmhouse, but looks more like a filmset for Ben Hur by comparison. It must now be clear to the Prime Minister, at least now, that this is a veritable politically linked outrage. Mepa reform should start from here, if it is to be credible at all. It should not only be stopped but whoever was responsible and found to have abused of his power should be made accountable. No less. Let us at least start from this ugly case and keep going on the good road forward. I expect the opposition party to have a strong say on this as well, if we are to keep trusting our parliament at all.
J. Borg (1 day, 5 hours ago)
MEPA Reform...?

Pull the other one dear Dr. Gonzi!
savior cordina (1 day, 6 hours ago)
These things should be remembered at election time and opposition must air its views.
g.c.Forte (1 day, 7 hours ago)
@ H.Dempster.......If the opposition wants to stop this project and others that seems irregular, can go to parliament and after a serious debate, can take action, if results that the matters are incorrect. It seems that the government is ignoring the opposition, and members from the same government are opposing their own side and doing what the opposition should do. Never forget the Maltese saying " Hokkli dahri halli inhokk tghijak" You scratch my back and I scratch yours........that is what is happening between the two parties. @ RAM..........I think that you are wasting your time.
Raymond Sammut (1 day, 7 hours ago)
Dr Joseph Muscat has got to make his position clear. He has a lot to clean up, both in the Labour camp and in the PN camp. Malta and decent Maltese citizens have had more than enough. The sort of revulsion shown in this picture cannot continue on with impunity, and must be reversed.
Joseph Grech (1 day, 7 hours ago)
I appeal to the Hon. Prime Minister to stop these works. He should know that there previously was an unused, broken farmhouse building on the spot. The Hon. P.M., indeed anyone, can see from the picture this is NO FARMHOUSE but an unbridled speculative ''development'' by somebody with strong political links who should not even have applied to build there in the first place. The P.M. should STOP this outrage - he surely cannot say that he cannot interfere in MEPA's work when it is so obvious that the DCC and MEPA's Enforcement should not have allowed this work to proceed. MEPA Reform starts with this issue! People will judge the P.M.'s resolve to clean up the MEPA act by what he does to prevent this ongoing rape ofBahrija. That goes also for Joseph Muscat the leader of the Opposition.
J. Aquilina (1 day, 7 hours ago)
Kaz mill-iktar car li jindika li r-riforma tal-MEPA mhux ser tfisser xejn!!!! Isthu jekk tafu kif.
jimi Xerri (1 day, 7 hours ago)
@H Dempster

The opposition would have lots of demolishing to do, considering what went on during their hey days!!!
H Dempster (1 day, 8 hours ago)
It is high time that the opposition should clearly state that if they would return to power in the next election , is it their intention to knock down all buildings which have been built outside the building zone like the bahrija works and others, or are they going to let things lie.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

PR on Bahrija 17th January 2010

Bajrija, 17th Jan 2010

Bahrija 17th Jan 2010

Bahrija 10th Jan 2010

Bahrija Before

Bahrija Before

Despite the evident damage being done to the pristine Bahrija valley, works are still being carried out by the owner (see attached pictures).

As a reminder, applicant Victor Scerri, in the name of his wife Ms Marthese Said, filed four applications, each one more audacious than the previous one:

PA 02835/2000
PA 06321/2002
PA 05846 /2004
PA 07719/2006

All applications were recommended for refusal by the Planning Directorate, as they all run counter to numerous provisions of the Structure Plan and other regulations, policies and guidelines. All recommendations for refusal were overturned by the DCC (Development Control Commission) and permits were issued for each one. However, after protests by ENGOs, the last permit was overturned by the MEPA board in August 2009, invoking Article 39A of the Development Planning Act.

RAM still believes that all four permits should have been withdrawn, and not just the last one. In any case, RAM believes that the 2002 PA permit, issued in January 2003, is long past its five-year validity period, and had therefore expired long before the works started. Furthermore the 2004 application did not ask for an extension of the 2003 permit, but simply “to delete Condition 3 in order to confirm with condition 1 in PA 6321/02”. This has also been brought to the attention of the MEPA chairman.

In view of the above, RAM is again calling on the PM, as the minister responsible for MEPA, and as the head of the current government, to use whatever jurisdiction he has over MEPA to stop the works forthwith.

It RAM’s view, this government is being totally unscrupulous in allowing this development in such an area, clearly in breach of innumerable regulations, policies and guidelines, under the guise that MEPA is an independent authority.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Rabat Walk 13th January, 2010

Report and Photos by Alfred Camileri

Only walk leader Gunter and seven Ramblers turned up for this walk. A heavy downpour just before the meeting time probably discouraged other ramblers from joining the walk. The
afternoon started at the Domenicans' church where we had a guided tour of the Madonna ta' l-Ghar sanctuary. The weather by the end of this visit was inviting and we started on our way towards Zebbug, shedding our raincoats.

On the outskirts of Zebbug we turned back towards Rabat through country lanes. However, on the last stretch (with about 20 minutes to go) of the walk the weather turned sour
and heavy rainfall and thunders gave a new twist to our walk. Literally we had to wade uphill to return to our starting point in Rabat. All in all a wonderful all weather experience!!!

Walk leader: Gunter

Duration of walk: 2.5 hours

Upstream to Rabat

Il-Madonna ta' L-Ghar

High Wall near Zebbug


The brave seven + one!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Ramblers urge Mepa to stop Baħrija works

From the Times of Monday, 11th January 2010

For our full PR, please check the 10th January 2010 page, where you will also find RAM's reaction to the Minister's reply.

Ramblers urge Mepa to stop Baħrija works Matthew Xuereb

The works taking place on the contentious site in Baħrija. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Environmentalists have upped the ante in their quest to stop ongoing works to rebuild a Baħrija farmhouse owned by former Nationalist Party president Victor Scerri, insisting they are not satisfied with the planning authority's handling of the matter.
The Rambler's Association has written to Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, Rural Affairs Minister George Pullicino and to the chairman of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, asking them to put a stop to the works.

Late last year, the association had asked Mepa to stop ongoing "abusive works" on the site after a permit for an extension of the farmhouse was withdrawn in August.

At the time, the association had filed an objection with Mepa saying "heavy equipment was back on site with uncontrolled works perpetrating the ruination of the valley".

The reason for the withdrawal of the extension permit was that an environment screening process had been ignored. However, the original building permit remains valid because it was granted before the screening process was introduced.

Work on the controversial site started again in November after Mepa gave its go-ahead to the method restoration statement supplied by Dr Scerri's architect.

The development had sparked controversy before the European Parliament elections last June and subsequently led to Dr Scerri's resignation. He had insisted he wanted to defend his case as a private citizen without dragging the party into the controversy.

In its letter, the association said Mepa had not addressed all the points it raised back in December, insisting other answers were unsatisfactory.

It requested that works be stopped on grounds of a commitment Mr Pullicino gave in 2005 when he was responsible for Mepa.

The ramblers accused Mr Pullicino of misguiding people and civil society when in an article published in The Times on June 4, 2005 he said: "I am confident the planning system is sufficiently robust to provide important countryside areas such as Baħrija and Fomm ir-Riħ adequate protection from insensitive development."

The association said that at the time of the above declaration, three applications filed by the same person had already been approved in Baħrija, which meant the minister never sought information from Mepa or was given incorrect information. Alternatively, they added, Mr Pullicino was knowingly concealing the applications and thereby making a false declaration.

On these grounds, the association called for the revocation of all permits issued in the Baħrija area before June 4, 2005.

The charges were rebutted by the ministry, which, in turn, accused the association of distorting the truth. The minister, it said, had been referring to the development of a five-star resort and golf course among other developments that were supposed to be built in Baħrija. Mr Pullicino never spoke on the proposals the association was addressing.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Bahrija PR Sunday 10th January 2010

In an open letter, addressed among others to the Prime Minister and to Mr. Austin Walker, MEPA chairman, the Ramblers’ Association (RAM) have reminded the public that in June 2005 Mr. George Pullicino, then Minister responsible for MEPA, issued a statement declaring that “up to now not even an outline application for development has been submitted to MEPA” for the Bahrija area, when, it later transpired that in fact, in the Special Area of Conservation of Bahrija, MEPA had already issued development permits to Ms Marthese Said (Victor Scerri’s wife).

RAM therefore argue that the Hon. Minister either never sought information from, or else was given incorrect information by, MEPA. Otherwise one would have to conclude that the Hon Minister was knowingly concealing these applications, and thereby making a false declaration, thus misleading all those who care about our natural environment and preventing their taking action. These facts, RAM felt, warrant the withdrawal of all the aforesaid permits.

In a reaction to RAM’s letter, Mr. Pullicino's ministry said that his statement was being misrepresented, as he was then referring to alleged “large-scale developments such as a 5-star hotel or a golf course in the area, not simply to any development” (quoted from They did not mention whether or not the Minister had sought information from MEPA before writing or whether he had been given wrong information. And they did not mention whether or not he was aware of Mrs Said’s three applications (2000, 2002 and 2004).

One therefore can easily understand why this reaction did not come from the Minister personally but from officers of his Ministry. What minister can keep an honest face while making this kind of public statement about the most protected site on the island?

RAM’s communication did not allow him the luxury of silence; the bold assurance he had given did not leave him a leg to stand on and he had no easy answer. But neither did one expect the shallow and shameless answer his ministry has come up with. It puts into question not just the Minister’s but the whole government’s honesty, integrity and morality.

Let Minister Pullicino read again what he said: “As the minister responsible for planning and as a Maltese citizen, I am confident that the planning system is sufficiently robust to provide important countryside areas such as Bahrija and Fomm ir-Rih adequate protection from insensitive development.”

Does he honestly consider Dr Scerri’s project a “sensitive” one to this highly protected area? Can the government and its planning system now be trusted to provide ‘any’ protection to countryside areas which the EU itself has labeled as untouchable? When the preacher does not practice what he preaches, what faith can survive?

In the meantime, as can be seen in the attached photos, work on the Bahrija site is still proceeding, wreaking havoc on this natural gem. It is totally unconscionable that the government is still allowing this in-your-face development, in breach of innumerable regulations, policies and guidelines, under the guise that the MEPA is an independent authority.

January 2010

June 2009

June 2009

February 2009

Bahrija Before

Bahrija Before

Bahrija Before

Bahrija Before

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Saturday 9th January 2010 Walk: Birzebbuga - Hal Far

Some photos from today's walk, courtesy of Alfred Camilleri.

Walk Leader: Gunter

View from Ghar Hasan

Bring-in Site!


Going down to Ghar Hasan

Picture window