What a difference 12 years make! (letters) - www.timesofmalta.com
James A. Tyrrell, Larne, North Ireland.
I've been asking for some time if I was missing something with regard to the proposed development at Ramla l-Hamra. Given the latest development reported in Malta Today I am even more confused.
It now appears that in 1995 Mepa had refused the previous owner of Ulysees Lodge a permit to build a single villa with a swimming pool! This original permit request for an area covering 423 square metres was refused again at the reconsideration stage on grounds that it was "unacceptable urbanisation" and because the area is "geomorphologically unstable"! Mepa also quoted the fact that Structure Plan policy RCO 21 prohibits development in areas prone to erosion.
Mepa refused the permit even though the developers protested that there were already existing buildings on site so there would be no loss of scenic values. The developers even went so far as to propose undertaking an EIA, which was swept aside by Mepa.
Forgive me folks but I'm confused here. Twelve years ago, when Malta was not obliged to conform to stringent EU environment regulations, Mepa rejected the plan put forward by the developer because it involved "an addition by one fourth of the existing building footprint, besides the addition of a paved area and a swimming pool". Now Mepa have accepted the present plan from a developer involving not 423 square metres, but 7,600 square metres, not a single villa but 23 villas and not a single swimming pool but 23 swimming pools!
Incidentally, this was not the only permit to be refused, on this Ramla hillside. However others are now submitting an application, no doubt hoping to use the success of the Ulysees Lodge developers as a precedent to secure their own permit. So, in fact, the Ulysees Lodge project is just the beginning of the eventual urbanisation of Ramla. Am I the only person who finds this whole situation a bit strange, to say the least? If the project 12 years ago was seen as unacceptable urbanisation, what's changed? If the area 12 years ago was geomorphologically unstable, what's changed? If Structure Plan policy RCO 21 prohibited development in areas prone to erosion 12 years ago, what's changed?
Andrew Calleja has stated on more than one occasion that everything is above board within Mepa and that they have nothing to hide. Well I'm sorry, Mr Calleja but that is not the impression given to the watching public by this type of disclosure. The impression this gives is that something is far from right within this authority. If you don't agree that this is the case then Mr Calleja should put his money where his mouth is and reinstate Carmel Cacopardo. Without a fully functioning Audit Office, Mepa are laying themselves open to the very corruption that is festering inside other departments.
In the event that Mr Calleja fails to see the sense in this may I remind Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi that, given the massive sums involved in property development, were corruption to rear its ugly head in this sector it would make the amounts linked to other cases seem like small change.
So Mr Calleja, in closing, it is time to get the Audit Office up and running again. Given these latest disclosures it is obvious to a blind man that something is very wrong within Mepa. It is also obvious that Joe Falzon cannot operate effectively without an investigating officer and that Mr Falzon and Mr Cacopardo make an effective and highly respected team. I cannot begin to understand why Mepa are blocking the re-appointment of this man.
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