More photos, courtesy of Jeanette Debono.
Saturday, 31 July 2010
Wednesday, 21 July 2010
Wednesday, 21st July 2010 - 11:19CET
Church commission slams proposed Hondoq project
The Church's Environment Commission has come out strongly against the proposed development of a hotel, apartments and a yacht marina at Hondoq it-Rummien Bay, arguing that that the project is not sustainable.
The Commission said that it was difficult to justify claims that this project was for the long term benefit of the Gozitans since it would not conserve the natural beauty of the island, which should be the principal asset to draw tourism to Gozo.
"Under the pretext of the need to clean up the disused quarry and rehabilitate the site, there is a danger of land speculation without regard to what the tourism product will actually lose," the commission said.
It also said that it was a pity that the developer had been allowed to sell the land without the vendors having realised, or cared, about the damage which such a sale could cause."
(The site was once owned by a religious Order.)
The Commission in its report said that it was not enough for those who opposed the project to actually manage to stop it.
"Stopping this project will not be enough. It should actually only be the first step. There is an urgent need to be proactive in the way we care for the natural heritage in Gozo. Ways have to be found to address the neglected state of the disused quarries and the resultant environmental scars in the context of eco-Gozo," the commission said.
The regeneration of the site would not be cheap, it said, but rather than from land speculation, the funds should come from holistically planned national programmes which truly aimed at improving the quality of life of the people while also improving the tourism product.
In its report, the commission, which represents the dioceses of Malta and Gozo, said investment and development needed to be sustainable and a proper balance had to be struck with environmental protection.
The commission went over the project and said that the likely scenario was that this proposed 'Portomaso in Gozo' would spark off ribbon development, rather than remain isolated.
It also felt that the proposed development reflected social insensitivity, with the developer having ignored the fact that the majority of the people of Qala did not want the project.
Saturday, 17 July 2010
MEPA REWARDS ILLEGALITIES
The environment NGOs Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, NatureTrust Malta and Ramblers’ Association of Malta are pleased to note that MEPA reform is picking up momentum; the MEPA Reform Act has now become law and the Environment Protection Department is being strengthened by an additional 45 staff members. Moreover an Environment Policy for the Maltese Islands is being drawn up to address Malta’s environmental concerns by bringing the policies and actions of all Government ministries in line with the proposals of the environment document. If it actually comes about, this would be a welcome change from the present situation, where different ministries routinely violate environmental guidelines.
It is therefore dismaying to realise that MEPA’s supposed “Development Control Commissions” – there’s a misnomer if ever there was one - are still issuing decisions which contravene MEPA regulations.
The MEPA Auditor has published his report on the Mosta Wied il-Qleigha case, where a beautiful meadow has been divided into four plots against MEPA policy. Two owners gained permits to build reservoirs but abusively built two bungalows instead of reservoirs -see photos above.
The ENGOs brought this case to the attention of the authorities thinking that action would be taken to return the site to its original state. Instead of which one of the bungalows was sanctioned as stables in PA 7283/07.
The Auditor comments thus: “The site history is characterised by piecemeal illegitimate accretions to developments that have been approved. The inability to abide by the requirements of permit conditions is notable in the four cases, thus contributing to unjustified land take-up. This situation is of major concern to Environment Protection Directorate, and should not be rewarded through retroactive sanctioning.”
To which the Director of Environment added “Noting that applicants have demonstrated an inability to adhere to approved specifications, the proposals are strongly objectionable in principle, and it is recommended that the cases are referred to enforcement unit for direct action, with a view to securing removal of all illegalities and restoration of the site to its original state”
MEPA’s Heritage Advisory Committee also strongly recommended that application to convert one of the illegal bungalows into stables should be refused. On what grounds therefore did the DCC grant the permit when all MEPA’s departments urged refusal?
The Auditor further discovered a disparity in the height of the soil within the plot and concluded that the drawings submitted in connection with DN 447/06 are fraudulent and recommended that this permit should be withdrawn.
Furthermore, the demolition of the original rubble walls and replacement with walls of an illegal height as well as the splitting up of the land, required a full permit application and not just a Development Notification Order hence MEPA’s acceptance of the decision was ultra vires.
The Auditor concluded: “This is a classic example of how to reward a lawbreaker in his work to create environmental damage. Throughout the processing of the submitted applications the applicant was acting in bad faith” - This raises questions on the architect’s ethics in this case. Where does the Chamber of Architects stand on such cases? -“I recommend that the DCC Division A assumes its responsibilities for approving a permit contrary to policy and acts accordingly.”
The ENGOs state that the highest authorities were au courant of all the abuse in this case as were the members of the DCC Board when they approved this permit. If the MEPA reform is to have any credibility, Government must go beyond presenting Dr. Mario Demarco as the acceptable public face on this issue.
The NGOs support the Auditor’s implication that DCC board should resign and the permit be rescinded, however board resignations are no longer enough. The NGOs maintain that responsibility for the destruction of our countryside must be taken and disciplinary measures, preferably by the Courts, are called for. The public has looked on silently for too long while our heritage is destroyed by the very officials who are employed to protect it. Malta requires no less than legality NOW.