Mepa revokes Ramla l-Hamra permit -
by Chris Galea, di-ve news
Thursday, 4 October, 2007 (CET)

VALLETTA, Malta (di-ve news) -- October 04, 2007 -- 1500CEST -- The Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) has revoked the permit it had issued for the controversial Ramla l-Hamra development, which would have involved the conversion of the former Ulysses Lodge into a 23-unit villa tourist complex.

During a public hearing on Thursday, the MEPA Board revoked both the full development permit and the outline development application on the basis of Article 39A of the Development Planning Act.

The said Article states that the Authority may withdraw or modify a permit which has been approved where there are cases of fraud, defined as the submission to the Authority of any information, declaration or plan which is false, misleading or incorrect.

One of the conditions stipulated when the full development permit was granted, namely Condition 11, required the applicant to enter a public deed that ensured that the development would be used only for touristic purposes, that the site would remain as one, and that no parts of the site could be sold to third parties.

However, during the legal research carried out to ensure the validity of the commitment, it was discovered that part of the land that was earmarked for the project was in effect registered under the Government's name and thus did not belong to the developer.

MEPA's case officers argued that, since the applicant was not the sole owner of the land, he could not enter the public deed and therefore Condition 11 of the permit could not be satisfied.

Whilst pointing out that the outline development application and the full development permit were related to each other, and the former could not be carried out without the latter, the case officers invoked Article 39A as there was a false declaration of ownership and recommended the MEPA board to revoke both permits.

On their part, the developers requested the discussion to be split, arguing that if there was an issue with Condition 11 in the full development permit, this should not effect the outline development application which had been approved.

The also argued that at the time when the land was purchased in 1998, research going back to the 1960s showed that the land was not registered in the Government's name, as this was only done in 2002, and claimed that they had regularly purchased the land from the previous owner.

Whilst noting that they were not recognizing the Government as the owner of the land, the developers asked the MEPA board to postpone the decision so that they could verify with the Lands Department and contest the land, if need be by taking the issue to the Law Courts.

The developers also argued that the land in question only amounted to 1.5 per cent of the total, and described the writing off of the whole project for such a small piece of land as a draconian measure, adding that only three rooms from 23 units would be effected and thus the project could easily be amended.

During the time allocated to the public, one of the objectors brought up an application for development on the same site dating to 1984, which clearly showed that the road or passageway that was being contested was already a public road at the time.

During the board discussion, MEPA chairman Andrew Calleja referred to a letter by the Lands Department which stated that the land in question was the Government's and that there was no intention to dispose of it.

Other members made emphasis on the legality of the permit as the applicant had declared that the land was his when this was not the case, and reiterated that Article 39A should be applied.

At the end of the session, the MEPA board unanimously approved the revocation of both permits, a decision which was welcomed with applause by the objectors who attended the public hearing.
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04 Oct 2007 by