Illegal land grab amounts to theft, says Environmental NGOs

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Illegal land grab amounts to theft, says Environmental NGOsEnvironmental NGOs Flimkien ghal-Ambjent Ahjar (FAA), with the support of Ramblers and Friends of the Earth (Malta) said in a statement today that “we are seeing a grab of public land of unprecedented proportions in areas.”

They said that “The Gozitan coastline is especially targeted, as restaurants take over the promenades at Marsalforn and Xlendi as well as il-Kantra Bay in Mgarr ix-Xini. San Blas has suffered encroachment, boathouses flourish at Dahlet Qorrot and Dwejra, and the proposals for Hondoq ir-Rummien still threaten the whole area.”

The eNGOs said that MEPA’s Structure Plan states: “The countryside and the coast are two of the nation’s most valuable natural resources. Recognising this, the Planning Authority will rigidly control development of the countryside and coast in general.”

The Structure Plan continues with POLICY CZM 3: “Public access around the coastline immediately adjacent to the sea or at the top of cliffs will be secured. This will include taking shore-lands into public ownership, Government acquisition of illegal developments and encroachments…All the coastline will be brought into public ownership within a specified period.”

“In spite of all these ringing declarations, we are seeing a grab of public land of unprecedented proportions in areas ranging from San Blas, Marsalforn, Comino, Mellieha, Bugibba, Sliema, Ta’ Xbiex, Birgu and Marsaskala, some of them totally abusive and others, such as the outrageous privatisation of the Ta’ Xbiex gardens, initiated by the authorities!” the eNGOs said.

“The rate at which these illegalities are being perpetrated shows very clearly that the message being transmitted by new regulations full of loopholes, by ‘fast-tracking’ of applications, and by public, official charades like that of the MonteKristo Estates, has been taken up by “developers” of every sort,” they added.

“This amounts to a bare-faced erosion of public rights, condemned by the Ombudsman as “bad administration without due consideration of the national interest”. And in the face of this rapidly worsening environmental weather, the Minister of the Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change is completely silent and impotent: so much for the supposed great “benefits” of the separation of Planning and Environment,” the eNGOs said.

As reported yesterday, Flimkien ghal-Ambjent Ahjar (FAA), with the support of Ramblers and Friends of the Earth (Malta) are running a petition, now standing at over 750 signatures, being sent to the Prime Minister, asking him to protect public spaces. The signatures are also being sent to MEPA as objections to the proposed hotel lido extension at Ferro Bay, Sliema, the eNGOs said.

The eNGOs are calling on MEPA and the Lands Department to “change this laissez-faire approach and to refuse to grant further encroachments on public land in general and particularly that of the extension of a hotel resort at Ferro Bay, Sliema.”

“We demand that the authorities take immediate action against existing illegal encroachments as these are depriving the population of its right of access to public land, there for the enjoyment of each and every member of the public,” the eNGOs concluded.

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