Save Ramla – Carmen Bajada, Xaghra Councillor
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Unfortunately, in spite of all our and the NGO’s attempts to avoid this confrontation through discussions prior to the MEPA hearing, the Ramla question has become an International issue. This may be seen by going on the website www.saveramla.com which shows that among the 5,700 signatures, individuals from more than 54 different countries have signed the petition so far, not to mention the many complaints that have reached the EU.
In one of the local newspapers Environment Minister George Pullicino was quoted to say “I think that MEPA should have reduced the building density of the development”. If he really means it he is welcome to join us to help stop this development from taking place, as there are clear avenues by which this can be achieved, and primarily by investigating the legality of the Outline Permit.
Xaghra Local Council is worried about the issue of the redevelopment site, given the great amount of illegal development on the site. Does this mean that whoever has done illegal work on a site will be given the green light? With the issuing of this permit, MEPA is endorsing the practice of building without first obtaining permits. The policies (appended below) clearly state what should have been done and are imposed on most applicants. Why is it that some developers are given preferential treatment?
Going through the Mepa website reveals some interesting information. A copy of the site covered by application, clearly shows which areas were disturbed, which are covered with a permit, how many enforcements were issued for illegal works which were carried out on site, how many permits were refused. We have also found the new footprint which I leave for your interpretation.
What has changed since these were refused way back in 1984 and 2006?
Furthermore, we maintain that, contrary to what is being claimed the site is not all disturbed, is not a dumping ground or covered in builders’ rubble. The photo on the left is clear proof of this. Will the area just beneath the site in question, where the ruins of a tower still stand, also qualify as a disturbed area? May we see another Tower coming up there or maybe on a Roman Villa, who knows?
Going through the DPA report one finds that:
The key strategic policy documents relevant to this redevelopment project are the Structure Plan for the Maltese Islands (1992) and the Draft Gozo and Comino Local Plan (2002).
Policies RCO 10 and RCO 11 seek to protect Areas of Ecological Importance (AEIs) and Site of Scientific Interest (SSIs).
Whereas the site itself is not classified as either an AEI or an SSI, the area to the North of the site, at l-Irdum ta’ Marin, is a stretch of coast scheduled as a Level 2 AEI. It is also close to the boundary of the Ir-Ramla l-Hamra Special Area of Conservation (International Importance), and lies to the southeast of the Ghajn Barrani Special Area of Conservation (International Importance), both declared such within Legal Notice 257 of 2003).
The GCLP schedules the ta’ Marin Area as an Area of High Landscape Value, and a Level 2 AEI.
What about the Road leading from Calypso to Ramla? This is known as the Roman Road and Sir Temi Zammit carried out excavations in the area which brought Roman remains to light. In all likelihood the road has been there since the Roman Villa was built. Aerial photos which can be purchased from MEPA clearly shows this road.
It is good for everyone to be aware that most religions, whether Catholic, Muslim, Jewish etc, entail that we have the moral duty to save the environment. Besides having the responsibility to answer to God on the way we are treating the environment now, we also have the duty to preserve what we have now to be enjoyed by present and future generations.
It is your duty to join us, and help us save what others has given the green light to be destroyed. It’s never too late.
Xaghra Local Councillor
Policies referred to:
CIRCULAR PA 2/96
3 REGULARISING UNAUTHORISED DEVELOPMENT
3.1 When existing development on a site is wholly or partly illegal (that is, it is not covered by a development permit), the DCC will not consider a development permit application relating to new development on that site, unless the illegal development is regularised.
3.2 The illegal development may either be regularised through a specific application solely for that purpose or through an application which includes it as well as new development. However, in the latter case, it must be made clear in the application what development is covered (both in the description on the application form and in the drawings and plans), in order that the Planning Authority is sure that the unauthorised development does form part of the application.
CIRCULAR PA 2/98
2 ENFORCEMENT POLICY — ILLEGAL DEVELOPMENT
2.1 The following policy on illegal development, which elaborates on the policy set out in Circular 2/96, was approved on 12th February 1998. It will appear in a future supplement of the Planning Factbook.
2.2 The policy in PA Circular 2/96 seeks to ensure that illegal development is regularised (where it can be) and that enforcement action is or can be taken (where it can not be regularised). One way of putting pressure on
persons to do this is not to permit any further development on the site where there is illegal development. This is a reasonable and practical approach.
2.3 Where the illegalities concern parts of buildings over which a person, who wishes to carry out new development, had no control, then not permitting the development (solely because there are illegalities elsewhere on the site) will not serve this purpose. However, it is important to ensure, first, that the new development would not prevent the rectification of the illegalities, and, second, that a developer does not profit from an illegality.
2.4 In these circumstances, the following general principle is appropriate Where part(s) of a site or building is illegal, permission for new development elsewhere on the site or building should not be refused solely because there are illegalities in the building when
· granting permission for the new development will not physically
prevent, hinder or make difficult enforcement action (removal or
rectification) against the illegal parts of the building; and
· the application does not include the ‘illegal’ part(s); and
· the applicant has no control over the ‘illegal’ part(s) and was not
involved in the ‘illegal’ development
2.5 In a little more detail, and going through this step by step, the first and basic question, which should be addressed when an application on a site where there is illegal development is considered, is – Would the application, if granted, compromise or prevent the eventual execution of enforcement action against the illegal part of the building ?
2.6 If the answer is YES, then the application should be refused (for a reason directly referring to PA Circular 2/96), since new development should not adversely affect the potential for enforcement action.
2.7 If the answer is NO, the question then to be addressed is – Does the application relate to or include those parts of the building where there is illegal development ?
2.8 If the answer to this is YES, then permission should be refused, since the illegal development should be sanctioned before other development can be considered.
2.9 If the answer is NO, the question then to be addressed is – Does the applicant have control whether directly or indirectly over those parts of the building where there is illegal development and/or was the applicant involved whether directly or indirectly (as, for example, the original developer) in the illegal development ?
2.10 If the answer to this is YES, then permission should be refused, since the illegal development should be sanctioned before other development can be considered.