De­vel­op­ers’ Qala Creek project ap­peal sched­uled for Thurs­day

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

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.

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