Labour promises to stop Ramla l-Hamra destruction - www.maltastar.com
david vella Sat, 04 August 2007
Labour Leader Dr Alfred Sant promised that once in government it will resort to all actions permissible by the law to stop the building of 23 villas with pools at the picturesque Ramla l-Hamra, a project which the current administration approved and sanctioned.
Dr Sant announced Labourís pledge during a press conference on Friday evening, accompanied by Dr Joe Brincat, Labourís sole representative on the Mepa board, and the only one, out of 11 board members, to vote against the project last June, when the authority bulldozed right through numerous objections and issued a full development permit for the villa complex.
Labour will use all available processes, even those offered by EU institutions, to stop this project once and for all.
Strong support from PN
Dr Sant reminded that the architect Joe Falzon, the Nationalist Party (PN) representative sitting on the same board, voted in favour of the project. Giovanna Debono and George Pullicino, the Nationalist ministers for Gozo and the Environment, also expressed themselves in favour of the building of villas at Ramla l-Hamra.
At the same time, following an internal investigation, the Mepa auditor reported that another board member employed at the Prime Ministerís private secretariat, was asked to intervene on behalf of the developers, and was even present during a meeting between the developers and Mepa officials. The same official from the Prime Ministerís office also voted in favour of the building of villas at Ramla l-Hamra, metres away from precious archaeological remains, and an area of ecological importance, which benefits from EUís habitat conservation programme ĎNatura 2000í.
EIA waivers and boycotts
Despite the delicate nature of the site in question, the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (Mepa) did not ask the developers to carry out an enivornmental impact assessment (EIA), as specified by EU regulations, Dr Sant explained when listing numerous allegations of irregularities and shortcomings that pervade the process through which the villasí permit was issued. The authority defended itself by stating that a report presented by the developer showed that there were no archaeological remains. Yet, a few days later the same archaeologists who penned the report stated that they never intended it to be a replacement of an EIA. Instead it was a report on a proposal to set up a heritage trail in the area. They were never informed that their report would be attached to an application for a construction project.
Even the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, governmentís principle archaeological authority, wrote to Mepa to express its concern on the effect of the building on the nearby archaeological site.
To add insult to injury, when ĎFlimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjarí, a green NGO, called for the annulment of the permit, Andrew Calleja, the Mepa chairman, arrogantly declared a boycott against it. To date, this boycott has not yet been withdrawn.
Even the Xaghra Local Council, led by a majority of Labour councillors, will continue to voice its opposition against the project. During the conference, mayor Joe Cordina insisted that unless the permit is withdrawn, the local council is ready to ask Mepaís board of appeal to overturn the decision to grant permission.
Technical reports published
Members of the Save Ramla Committee were also present for the press conference. This action group has just published two technical reports which were sent to Mepa two weeks ago, one of which contains evidence that the developersí architects defrauded the authority by handing in incorrect information on the application form for the outline permit of the villas. The other report gives evidence that area where the villas permitted by Mepa will be built, includes a public pathway. Thus, unless the authority withdraws the permit, the developer will be given the green light to encroach on public land illegally. Even the police were informed of these irregularities.
The two technical reports can be viewed on www.saveramla.com.
Labourís Gozo MPs, Dr Anton Refalo and Dr Justyne Caruana were also present for the conference. While Ramla l-Hamra is internationally recognised for its natural charm, the Nationalist government is insisting on supporting an unsustainable construction project, Dr Caruana said. Dr Refalo added that government continues to brag with EU institutions about the environmental benefits Gozo enjoys, but says nothing about the destructive project it is approving. Roderick Galdes, Labourís spokesperson for environmental protection also attended the press conference.
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