Qala Creek Developers apply to use Government Land
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Moviment Harsien Hondoq, FAA, Ramblers, Nature Trust, Wirt Ghawdex, FoE Malta, Din l-Art Helwa and GUG urgently request that the public be informed as to whether any requests for the transfer of land at Hondoq Bay have been received by the Lands Department.
Hondoq ir-Rummien’s chequered planning history began with the 1969 Government expropriation of Hondoq Quarry including the site of the Reverse Osmosis plant, in order to provide stone for the Mgarr breakwater.
In 1988, Gozo Prestige Holidays entered into a ‘promise of sale’ with the previous owners, the Augustinian Brothers, dependant on full development permits being acquired. The same year Qala Local Council also applied to convert the area into a National Park, but the high permit fees required by MEPA meant it was not feasible to continue at the time.
In June 2002, the land was returned to the Augustinian Brothers, excluding the site of the reverse osmosis plant. In July the developers put in an application for the Qala Creek Project, despite the area’s ODZ status, and the fact that the proposal violated the draft Local Plan published in June 2002, agreed upon by Qala Local Council and MEPA. This stated: “The preferred use is to reclaim the area either for agricultural use or afforestation.”
The slightly modified Qala Creek development project was again presented to MEPA in January 2006, but was still contrary to the draft Local Plan and ODZ status. However, these issues were ‘resolved’ when the final Local Plan was published in August 2006. This had been changed without the knowledge or approval of Qala Local Council or the public, and now stated: “The preferred use is to sensitively develop the area. Tourism and marine related development may be considered by MEPA”.
MEPA’s Environment Protection Directorate (EPD) took 3 years to get a non-biased EIS of acceptable quality from the developers, until finally a “barely certifiable version” was received. Subsequently the EPD recommended the project’s refusal in mid-2011.
Before the MEPA Board could give its final decision on the project, the developers withdrew the original proposal, and suggested a new one in late 2011, replacing the marina with a swimming lagoon, despite the developers previously insistence that the marina was essential to the project’s success.
This proposal went beyond the footprint of the original application, hence MEPA requested that the developers submit a totally new application. The developers appealed against this, and the process is still ongoing.
The additional footprint is the land with the reverse osmosis plant, which is still Government-owned. The developers want to demolish the plant and build the public car park there. By doing this, they gain extra space within the original project area.
In accordance with the Development Planning Act, the Hondoq Creek developers notified the Land Department of their intentions. Moviment Harsien Hondoq, FAA, Ramblers, Nature Trust, Wirt Ghawdex, FoE Malta, Din l-Art Helwa and GUG request an urgent public reply by the Lands Dept. as to whether any requests for the transfer of this land have been received by them and ask the authorities to state clearly their stance on this transfer of land and on the proposed development on it.
The Associations feel very strongly about this site being handed over for speculative purposes.
Moviment Harsien Hondoq, FAA, Ramblers, Nature Trust, Wirt Ghawdex, FoE Malta, Din l-Art Helwa and GUG.
The Save Hondoq petition, which so far has attracted more than four thousand signatures, can be found at http://raxerri.com/soshondoq/ .