Minister defends Ramla l-Hamra permit - http://www.timesofmalta.com/
Saturday, June 16, 2007

Environment Minister George Pullicino has defended the decision to allow 23 self-catering villa-style tourist units to be built in the Ulysses Lodge area overlooking Ramla l-Hamra, in Gozo.

The decision taken by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority last week has been highly controversial. Environmental NGOs have directed a barrage of criticism at Mepa and the authority's chairman, Andrew Calleja, reacted by declaring a boycott against Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar claiming it used "distorted facts" to criticise the development.

Replying to questions addressed to the minister, a spokesman for Mr Pullicino defended the permit, saying all construction would take place on the footprint of an existing development and, in any case, on disturbed and already committed land.

Insisting that the new structures would have a much lower visual impact than the existing ones, the spokesman insisted that a bond underwritten by the developer would ensure that the development would remain a tourist complex.

"The developer has also bound himself to landscape the area with mature vegetation in order to ensure that the project blends in well with its surroundings. The locality where the development will be carried out will also benefit from a planning gain of Lm20,000."

Despite the public outrage at the commercial project to be built outside the development zone, the Environment Minister thinks the project is justifiable because the site today is occupied by a development which is fully licensed and permitted, and which is used for various public events such as weddings and parties, the spokesman said.

"These facts should also be considered since the present activities already have an impact on the site. The new development will basically occupy the same footprint of the current development, and all precautions have been taken to ensure that the impact is mitigated as much as possible."

Reiterating arguments used by Mepa to justify the development, the ministry spokesman said the elevations will be kept low so as to ensure better visibility of the ridge, which until today is obstructed by the present development.

"The area and its features stand to gain since one permit condition obliges the developer to make a heritage trail which until today has not yet been effected."

The Times pointed out that many a time have developers in various projects failed to respect the permit brief. On some occasions, unplanned units sprouted during construction as developers flaunted permit regulations. However, the spokesman said, permit conditions lay down the safeguards that Mepa has put in place so that this permit is carried out as approved.

"I trust that the permit conditions will be respected by the developer, and enforced by Mepa," the spokesman said.
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16 Jun 2007 by Saveramla.com