Disturbance at Ramla l-Hamra - letters - http://www.timesofmalta.com/
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Edward A. Mallia, Attard.

The barrage of letters and press releases about the Ramla il-Hamra (RLH) development have served to lay bare some of the devices used by developers to further their cause by hook or by crook.

One of the most obvious is to invoke "disturbed ground". As pointed out by Marco Cremona (June 21), Xaghra l-Hamra (XLH) was declared to be "disturbed ground" when its vocation was deemed to be that of a golf course.

Now we have the "disturbed ground" at RLH which is to be included in the footprint. But who "disturbed" the ground in the first place, and under what dispensation? The point raised by DLH and Gaia (June 20) seems crucial in this respect. This "disturbed ground" represents a surreptitious grab of public land, never covered by any permit. The present footprint is about twice, and not a little less than, the original. That destroys the legal basis of the present permit. The musings of Minister George Pullicino and of Mepa are at best misinformed.

The auditor's report - all 11 pages of it - has been pulled in every direction. In summary the auditor raised two objections. The first involved the presence of a Mepa board member at a meeting between Mepa officials and the developer. The meeting, which was not a part of the accepted planning process, was a result of the developer lodging a complaint at the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) about the lack of clarity in Mepa requirements. OPM must have suggested a clarification meeting at which an OPM Mepa board member was "passively" present as a "facilitator". That still amounts to unethical behaviour by the mere fact of being present. Worse, the government now preaching non-interference, was in fact interfering. Worst of all, the meeting constituted favoured treatment of the developer.

The second objection centred on the fact that Mepa did not publish the reasoned justification required by law for an exemption from submission of an EIA, making do with a public notification of a waiver. Here the auditor stuck to his guns: A notification does not constitute a reasoned justification. The Mepa PRO asserted (June 22) that "the Audit Officer said 'I have no difficulty in accepting the above explanation..." (p.11). But the full final section of the Auditor's report, headed Rejoinder, says: "I have no difficulty in accepting the above explanation, with one exception. Mepa did not publish a justification of its exemption from carrying out of an Environmental Impact Assessment. It just published a notification without adequate reasons being brought forward."

The Mepa promise of future change is irrelevant to this case; in fact it is nothing more than a pathetic attempt at covering up. If Lawrence Gonzi wants to retain a shred of credibility, then he should act quickly to sort out this mess.
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26 Jun 2007 by Saveramla.com