Church Commission reiterates its position on Hondoq project
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The Church’s environment commission said in a statement today that in light of the appeal hearing on the proposed development of Hondoq ir-Rummien, it would like to remind the public and the authorities concerned of its views on the project.
The Comission said that it felt it must do so because it is also an environmental issue and how the decision was taken (or not taken) had to address certain basic principles on the sustainable development of these islands.
The Commission said that it believes that sustainable development can only foster the good environmental, social and economic outcome for Gozo. They would also wish to ensure that any development that occurs on the island is one that realy improves the quality of life for its citizens, shows economic gains and is for the common good.
“At a Commission conference in 2011 on Gozo Development – Challenges and opportunities, it became clear that in Gozo in particular, there is no longer space for an economy built on the irresponsible exploitation of human and environmental resources.”
The Commission said that the largest problem with this project is the disproportionate size of its footprint. The Hondoq project proposes doubling the number of beds in the category of hotels with five stars, at a time when hotels of this type have serious difficulties. To help with this economic problem, the developer proposes greater development (!), Namely the creation of a tourist village and marina … instead what is needed is some form of sustainable development that respects the social and environmental needs of the locality and assist in its true rehabilitation.
Another problem, the Commision said of the EIS, was its comparisons with the development of the marina at Portomaso. “The report seems to forget that Portomaso was formerly occupied by the old Hilton Hotel and was part of a large and widespread urban development, including Paceville, St Julians and Sliema.”
The implications of this approach with the Hondoq project (once it is made) to make it “economically viable” there may be need of intense development of buildings surrounded with marina, leading to urban development and a range of other buildings (urban sprawling) arising from and spread along the remaining coastal area and in towards Qala. The AC states that any development of marinas should be allowed to occur in areas where there is already a certain level of urban development.
“The AC can not understand how the developer chose to ignore the fact that the majority of residents of Qala, which are to be directly affected by the project, are against this development as proposed. In addition there are also aspects of mitigation in the EIS, for example the provision of double glazed windows to reduce noise nuisance and air emissions, showing the superficial way that real problems for the local population are given secondary importance. “
“It is the view of the Commission that the proposed Hondoq project is not sustainable and it was difficult to see how it justified a better quality of life for the Gozitans in the long term.
“The project will not serve to preserve the identity of the landscape and the beauty of the surroundings, which is the main attraction (principal assets) that draw visitors to Gozo.
“The existing quarry area needs to be cleaned up and rehabilitated, there is a danger that the land is being used as an excuse for land speculation without regard to the tourism product that Gozo offers.”
It was a unfortunate, the Commission said, that the developers were able to buy this land without the seller having realised, or having ignored, the damage that can be made from this sale.
The Commission appealed to everyone, particularly to those who had spoken out against the project, saying that it would not be enough to stop this project. “This was only the first step, there is an urgent need to take a much more proactive stance on protecting Gozo’s heritage.”
The regeneration of the site will need money and these funds should be planned through national progammes in a holistic manner, which will translate into a better quality of life for all Gozitans and a better tourism product offered by Gozo.