MEPA to decide whether to revoke Ramla permit next week -
28 September 2007

The MEPA board have decided that there was sufficient evidence to consider the application of the provisions of Article 39A on permits pertaining to the re-development of the Ulysses Lodge.

Their legal office has found inaccuracies in the ownership declarations submitted with the applications which had a material bearing on the decisions of the Authority. It is understood that they have advised that the permit should be revoked.

The MEPA Board will decide this issue at a sitting in public on Thursday the 4th of October 2007. Full details from MEPA of the permit issues involved are available by clicking the full story link below:

What is Article 39A?

Article 39A of the Development Planning Act states that the Authority may, where there are cases of fraud, error on the face of the record or an issue of public safety, withdraw or modify a permit which has been approved. The Authority, according to the law is bound to give the reasons for such a decision.

The law explains ‘fraud’ as being the submission to the Authority of any information, declaration or plan which is false, misleading or incorrect. This information must be material to the decision taken by the Authority in approving development permission.

The Development Planning Act explains ”error on the face of the record” as an error on the face of a record which offends against the law.

Why is this being invoked for PA5138/02 (Outline) and PA7902/05 (full development) of the former Ulysses Lodge?

In the July issue of the MEPA inset X-PLAIN, the Authority announced that it was currently investigating requests for the revocation of two permits: PA5138/02 (Outline) and PA7902/05 (full development) relating to the re-development of the former Ulysses Lodge.

The investigations were being carried out on two counts:
i. as a legal basis to a public deed* which the Authority had required of the applicant as part of the permit conditions.
ii. Following submissions on behalf of objectors.

* A public deed is a contract between parties to ensure an agreement. In this case, the public deed concerns the sale of land. For such a deed it is normal that both parties carry out legal researches to ensure the validity of the commitment.

Why is land ownership important in this case when MEPA always says that it is not?

All permits are issued on the site of the application not on the owner. Ownership is not normally a material planning consideration. However in this case it is considered as having a material bearing on the decision.

When MEPA approved PA7902/05, it imposed Condition 11 in the permit, binding the applicant to enter into a public deed with MEPA not to transfer any part of the complex except if it is being sold as a complete business concern. This had been done to ensure that the tourist complex is not eventually transformed into a residential area. To enter into this deed MEPA commenced research on the issue of land ownership.

If it transpires that the land covered by the permit is not wholly owned by the applicant, condition 11 in the permit could never be fullfilled, thus making the permit void.

Does this mean that there were irregularities in the process?

Irregularities in the process cannot be attributed to MEPA since it is the applicant’s responsibility to provide MEPA with the correct information regarding ownership. If the condition for the signing of a public deed had not been imposed in the permit, ownership would not have been an issue. It is to MEPA’s credit that all due attention was given to detail when approving the permit and can thus follow up scrupulously on all aspects of the relevant laws and policies on the matter.

What were the findings of the researches?

MEPA’s legal office has finalized its researches and has found sufficient evidence to bring to the MEPA Board’s attention inaccuracies with regards to the ownership declarations. A request to consider the application of the provisions of Article 39A on permits pertaining to the re-development of the Ulysses Lodge was made to the MEPA board citing the submition of misleading/incorrect information. The Legal Office maintains that part of the land on the property is registered as public at the Land Registry.

What happens next?

MEPA Board will decide this issue at a sitting in public on Thursday 4th October 2007.

What and where is Ulysses Lodge?

Ulysses Lodge which is situated in the site known as Ta’ Marin in the limits of Xaghra is mainly characterised by a complex consisting of dwelling units and a large country residence style entertainment complex. The complex which has existed for over 25 years, has been used for a variety of purposes over the past years, but mostly as a night club and venue for various functions, such as weddings. It has known to cater for 4,000 persons.

How large is the site and what part is to be developed?

The overall landholdings cover an area of 40,000 square metres . For interpretation purposes this can be divided into three zones:

Zone A: Terraced fields
Zone B: Unspoilt land
Zone C: Developed and disturbed land (ie built up area and area with infill material serving as a foundation for the structures). This zone has an area of approximately 8,000 square metres.

The permitted development of the tourist complex covers the area of Zone C.

Is the Calypso Cave within the site of the permitted development?

No, unlike what is wrongly being reported the Calypso cave does not only lie outside the area to be developed but does not form part of the total holding of the developer.

Is the footprint of the approved permit the same as the development that currently exists?
The footprint will take up the committed and disturbed areas of Zone C with the exception of some minor peripheral development which includes the construction of pools. This was the result of extensive negotiations which resulted in the complete removal of some units which were completely outside the committed footprint.

Why wasn’t an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) required?

An EIA is a process whereby the Authority requests an applicant to predict, analyze and interpret significant environmental impacts of a proposed development.

Since the proposed development could have qualified for an EIA the Authority, following the EIA procedures, requested the carrying out of certain studies during the Project Description Statement (PDS) stage.

The Authority waivered the EIA for this development due to the fact that the applicant had submitted a sound and detailed Project Description Statement (PDS).

Why was the Project Description Statement (PDS) enough?

It was enough because the studies submitted to MEPA were sufficiently detailed to enable the Authority to waive the requirement for further studies. The possible impacts identified in the PDS were evaluated against the criteria in Annex 3 of the EIA directive. The PDS, which was divided into two parts, was submitted on the 23rd May 2005:

PART A covered:
Applicant’s profile - Opportunities and problems - General strategy/production & operational method - Proposed timing of the project - Viability tourism study - Site plan - Alternatives considered - Design of the development - Present land uses and environment characteristics - Surrounding land uses - Existing services on site - Estimate of employment on site - Access arrangements and parking requirements - Mitigation measures

PART B covered specific studies:
Technical drawings of proposal
Geo-Environmental Impact Assessment
Slope and Stability Analysis
Geotechnical Study of Foundations
Archaeological Heritage Report
Ecological Appraisal

Did the Archaeological Heritage Report criticise the development?

The Archaeological Heritage Report clearly noted that no archaeological remains were observed in the area to be developed. This study which was carried out by ASC Co-operative Ltd was based on archival research and an extensive field survey of the site and its vicinity.

Is the permitted development going to be an eyesore?

No, the Authority has ensured that adequate and approriate landscaping will be carried out. The approved landscaping scheme will be implemented in phases and the first phase stipulates that specific mature trees will be planted in approved, specific areas following the demolition of the existing buildings and prior to the commencement of excavation and construction works.

The entire scheme shall be implemented in its entirety within the first planting season following completion of the development hereby approved.

Is the permit subject to conditions?

Yes, the permit is subject to a number of conditions that have been imposed on the developer. Infact for the first time since its inception the Authority has entered a condition in the permit which allows the sale of the property only as a whole complex and only for tourism purposes (condition 11).

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28 Sep 2007 by