Ramla Bay development: Archaeologists did not know why report was commissioned - http://www.independent.com.mt/
by Juan Ameen
The four archaeologists who were commissioned to draw up a preliminary report in 2002 on the archaeological remains in the site chosen for the Ramla Bay development were not informed what the report was going to be used for.
Archaeologists Marlene Borg, Joseph Calleja, Ernest Vella and Katya Stroud were commissioned to draw up a report by developer Emidio Azzopardi of Ulysses Lodge Company Limited back in 2002, as part of the Project Development Statement (PDS) submitted with the full development application.
The developer did not submit an Environment Impact Assessment but instead provided MEPA with a “detailed” PDS.
During a public hearing held on Wednesday, the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) board approved, with 10 votes in favour and one against, the construction of a tourist complex overlooking Ramla Bay.
One of the four archaeologists, Marlene Borg, told this newspaper that they had no idea what the report was going to be used for.
“We were not told that the report was going to be attached to a development permit application. We were just given an outline of the area – no maps or plans or anything else – and told to carry out a preliminary report on the remains,” she said.
The archaeologists were asked to compile information about any archaeological remains that could be enhanced in the future, she said.
The application in question, 7902/05, requested the demolition of the existing tourist and entertainment complex, known as Ulysses Lodge, and the construction of 23 self-catering villa-style residential units with underground parking spaces, sub-stations and pools.
It also included the establishment of an integrated landscaping scheme and the restoration of an old building and the conversion of the same building into an administration centre for the tourist complex.
The site in question covers an area of around 40,000 square metres, and is on a clay slope below the Xaghra plateau, overlooking Ramla Bay.
During the meeting, Rudolph Ragonesi from Gaia Foundation and Astrid Vella from Flimkien Ghall-Ambjent Ahjar both expressed their concern over the lack of an EIA, especially for such a large project, and pointed out that there were several archaeological remains in the area, including a footpath known as the Roman Road, which will be negatively affected, or lost.
However, Mr Vella said that the developer had submitted a report, included in the PDS, signed by four architects, who claimed to have found no evidence whatsoever of the Roman Road.
The case officer also said that the Roman Road is not indicated anywhere on MEPA’s records.
Legal adviser to the applicant Edward Debono added that any archaeological remains that were found were 50 metres away from the buffer zone and nothing was found on site.
Dr Debono also stated that the Roman Road was not included in the development area but was actually 80 metres away.
However, Mrs Borg pointed out that had this been the case, the report would have not focused on including the remains in a heritage trail.
“The report never said that there were no archaeological remains. In fact, we actually suggested that these could be included in a heritage trail – how can you have a heritage trail without archaeological remains,” she said.
Furthermore, Mrs Borg added, “Had we known that the report was going to be used as part of a Project Description Statement of a development permit, we would have carried out a more in-depth report on the impact the development would have on the archaeological remains and requested a copy of the development plans.”
This report cannot be used as part of the development permit, she said. “There is the need for a serious and detailed report that is related to the impact the development will have.”
“We decided to issue a press release to clear our names following what was said,” said Mrs Borg.
Furthermore, she said, the four archaeologists were informed what the study was going to be used for when they received a phone call on Tuesday night.
“We were informed only the night before the public hearing, and by then it was too late for us to attend,” she said.
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