Ramla l-Hamra project - Developer says no comment - www.timesofmalta.com
Sat, Sep 29, 2007

Mark Micallef

The developer behind the Ramla l-Hamra project would not comment yesterday as activists celebrated the news that a permit for a villa complex in the area is likely to be revoked. "I'm not giving any comments," Mario Grech, one of the partners behind the project, said when contacted, shortly after apprehending the news.

The Times reported yesterday that the Malta Environment and Planning Authority has been advised to revoke the permit it had issued last June for a 23-unit villa tourist complex on the grounds that a tract of the land proposed for development is government owned.

The development/environment watchdog does not usually go into the merits of property rights but, in this case, one of the conditions tied to the permit was that the developer enters into a public deed with Mepa, binding himself not to sell the villas as separate units but retain the project as a single unit.

According to Mepa's lawyers, because he presented the disputed land as his own, the developer provided "fraudulent information" in terms of article 39A of the Development Planning Act and, as a result, rendered himself liable to the revocation of the permit.

Evidently ecstatic about the news, a cautious Carmen Bajada, the Xaghra local councillor who spearheaded the wide protests that followed the decision, said she would rather wait till Thursday - when a final decision is expected to be taken during a public hearing - before making any celebratory comments.

Astrid Vella from Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar was not as restrained. "We are very satisfied with the decision to discuss the revocation of the permit," she said, stressing that the permit should have never been issued on grounds of ecological and heritage values, as well as the conservation of the landscape.

"We trust this signals a change in the way Mepa will examine other such Out of Development Zone (ODZ) permits in the future, like those of Ta' Cenc and Hondoq ir-Rummien where we feel that the proposed development, particularly the marina in the second project, violates the residents' rights."

The revocation itself does not mean a retraction or admission of any mistake on the part of Mepa once the argument it forwarded is purely legal.

Yet, on this point, Mrs Vella said FAA welcomes Mepa's "mature re-examination on whatever grounds". "We feel this confirms what we've said all along, that Mepa should not allow such major projects in ODZ areas so that one does not have to come to the situation where such obviously unacceptable development permits have to be fought on legal grounds."
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29 Sep 2007 by Saveramla.com