The rape of Ramla -
by Noel Grima

“A garden vine, luxuriant on all sides, mantled the spacious cavern, cluster-hung profuse”

So does Homer (Odyssey 5,64) describe Ramla Bay in Gozo as seen from Calypso’s Cave.

Not for long, though, it would seem.

For on 7 July, the board of Mepa approved at outline stage what was described as “the redevelopment of an existing fully licensed commercial complex” namely Ulysses Lodge, which was built years ago and which was used as a nightclub and for wedding receptions.

It will now become 23 self-catering villa style residential units, with ancillary parking spaces, while a farm building will be converted into an administration centre.

Speaking to The Malta Independent on Sunday yesterday, MP Evarist Bartolo, who raised the matter in Parliament last week, said the main concern is that this may lead to further strip development in the same way that the ruin of the Zebbug skyline has been allowed by building development over the years.

The applicant is Emidio Azzopardi and the architect is Annamaria Attard Montalto.

Gozo residents told this paper that “Ulysses Lodge was never really operative” and that they doubt whether the site holds the current police licences.

Questioned by this paper, a Mepa spokesperson said that this is a major project and as such had been determined in public by the Mepa board. If, however, an application is based on false premises, the permit would be revoked.

The spokesperson denied that the site is subject to enforcement action.

The application was duly advertised in 2002, when it was received, and its public hearing was also advertised. “Any objections would have been received and reacted to in the appropriate fora,” said the spokesperson.

In his report, case officer Robert Vella said that while the site is not classified as either an Area of Ecological Importance or a Site of Scientific Interest, the area to the north, l-Irdum ta’ Marin, is scheduled as a Level 2 AEI and the site is close to the boundary of the Ramla l-Hamra Special Area of Conservation of Inter-national Importance and lies southwest of the Ghajn Barrani Special Area of Conservation. The Marin area is also scheduled as an Area of High Landscape Value.

Mr Vella also admitted that the existing complex is an imposing structure overlooking one of the most picturesque valleys and beaches in Gozo. The buildings on the site are not only visible from the beach but also from a makeshift belvedere on top of Xaghra ridge which overlooks the valley and the beach itself.

It would seem the board found that neither the Structure Plan nor the local plan gave clear indications regarding possible re-use of the site. To leave the site as is, the board felt, and not allow any further development could very well have been deemed justified but would achieve nothing in terms of an improved environment.

The board therefore agreed that the development of a low-lying complex within a highly landscaped setting would be beneficial to the overall visual impact of the landscape.

Reports made to the board on ecological and archaeological aspects did not indicate any specific issues in the site.

The board also considered photomontages of the proposal from three different viewpoints and also two scenarios – one with a dense and mature landscaping screen and one with a less dense and mature screen. They “clearly indicate’ said the report, that both scenarios represent an improved visual aspect from all viewpoints, compared to the existing development.
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09 Jun 2007 by