Brussels wants EIA for Sliema project -
Ivan Camilleri in Brussels
Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The European Commission is today expected to issue a letter of formal notice to the Maltese authorities insisting on the need for an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) of the proposed development at Fort Cambridge in Sliema.

Sources close to the EU executive yesterday confirmed that Brussels is not convinced that the authorities respected EU law when a permit was issued without an EIA.

The Commission's environment directorate services has, therefore, recommended to the College of Commissioners, meeting today, to start infringement proceedings against Malta.

The proposed development of six high-rise buildings in Sliema, on the site of the Crowne Plaza Hotel, was given the green light by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority in February amid protests by residents and NGOs, which had objected to the lack of an EIA.

Mepa had said it opted not to demand an EIA because it considered the information provided by the developers as sufficient.

The infringements procedure could have implications for other developments on which Mepa has not seen the need for an EIA.

In the debate about the Fort Cambridge project, the NGO Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar had stated that Mepa failed to inform the European Commission of its decision to waive EIAs in 17 cases of proposed development, despite being legally required to do so.

More recently, the waiver of an EIA for the controversial Ramla l-Hamra development has also been challenged by NGOs.

The Fort Cambridge site, right next to the large Midi project at Tignč, had been sold by the government to Gap Developments for Lm23.3 million last December.

GAP offered the public a Lm15 million, seven per cent secured bond issue which it will use to part finance the project, which had actually been oversubscribed by some Lm1.3 million.

The Maltese authorities will be given two months to reply to the Commission's claims from the time the letter is received by the government. If the Commission remains unsatisfied with the answer, it can opt to continue its legal procedures until the issue is referred to the European Court. The Commission's initiative over this alleged breach of EU law started last May following an official complaint filed by the Qui-Si-Sana and Tigne' residents' associations. The associations insisted that according to both Maltese and EU law, this type of massive construction should be subjected to an EIA to assess the impact on the neighbourhood and its residents.
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29 Jun 2007 by