Developers’ Qala Creek project appeal scheduled for Thursday
The residents of Qala are bracing themselves as an appeal against the Planning Authority Board’s recent rejection of a planning permit for the Hondoq ir-Rummien mega-tourism project is due to be heard this coming Thursday.
In July, the Planning Board unanimously voted against granting an outline development permit for the construction of a destination port comprising of a hotel, a yacht marina and a tourist village, which has been 14 years on the drawing board.
The Board said that although the Gozo and Comino Local Plan promoted rehabilitation of the landscape damaged as a result of past quarrying activity in Hondoq ir-Rummien, the type, scale and density of the proposed project by far exceeds the interventions considered acceptable for the area. Additionally, the Board also noted that the project goes counter to the Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development’s vision for Gozo: that of being an ecological island.
The proposed project, with a total site area of over 103,000 square metres, was divided into several zones and consisted of a 110-bedroom hotel set on nine floors, 25 self-catering villas, 60 self-catering apartments, 200 multi-ownership residential units consisting of apartments, maisonettes and bungalows, over 1,200 underground car-parking spaces, a chapel, administration offices, shops and restaurants and a yacht marina with 150 berths. The project also included refurbishment of the existing quay to make the swimming area more accessible to the public, improving the kiosk facilities and creating an underground public car-park, public toilets and shower facilities, as well as upgrading the slipway facilities.
Following the conclusion of the Environmental Impact Assessment process with the recommendations of the then Environment Protection Directorate, the applicant had presented a revised master plan which, among a number of changes, eliminated the marina but included the excavation to form a lagoon-type bathing area with a beach.
The Authority had informed the applicant that the new master plan constituted a material change and therefore could not be assessed as part of the planning application. Although the applicant had appealed against the Authority’s decision not to proceed with a revised assessment, this had been dismissed by the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal.
At the time, Moviment Harsien Hondoq spokesman and Qala Deputy Mayor Paul Buttigieg expressed ‘delight’ at the decision against the Qala Creek mega tourism project.
Speaking yesterday, Mr Buttigieg said: “It has been a long 14-year struggle, and would not have been possible without the help and support of thousands of people. Everyone who wrote, spoke, signed petitions and showed opposition to this project have been involved in helping. Everyone’s input made a difference. Thanks to each and every one of you.”
Mr Buttigieg added: “In the light of the refusal, and the wishes of over 4,400 people who signed the petition, the area should now be returned to its original ODZ status. This would also fit in with Flimkien ghal Ambient Ahjar’s call to have Hondoq designated as being in the public domain, to be preserved in its natural state.”
Whether the project’s opponents will have a different take on matters come next Thursday, however, remains to be seen.