Will Mepa re-issue permit for villas at Ramla l-Hamra? - http://www.maltastar.com
Mepa turns down requests to remove illegalities
david vella Thu, 28 February 2008
For five months, environmentalists have been calling on Mepa to issue an enforcement order and remove the illegal structures built through the years at Ramla l-Hamra, but the authority is refusing to do this.
The authority’s decision not to issue an enforcement notice forcing the landowner to remove the illegalities and re-instate the site to its original state, is leading many to question Mepa’s willingness to save Ramla l-Hamra from further destructive building developments.
In June 2007, the same authority issued a permit for the building of 23 villas on the slopes overlooking the pristine bay. But environmentalists provided evidence showing that the developer included public land in his proposed villa development and that he provided the authority with false data. This gave Mepa no other option but to revoke this permit. The developer, a Gozitan contractor, did not give in, and in December 2007 formally asked Mepa to withdraw this revocation. A decision on this request is expected to be taken in June, three months after the general election. If the revocation is withdrawn, the construction of villas at Ramla l-Hamra will once again become a frightful reality.
Since October 2007, ‘Save Ramla’, the action committee set up by a Xaghra Labour councillor to voice people’s opposition to the project, has been asking Mepa to order the developer to clear away a number of illegal structures built during the last two decades on the site where the villas were being being proposed. Yet, a spokesperson of this group confirmed to maltastar.com that these appeals have been futile. Mepa has not yet issued an enforcement notice, despite its legal obligation to do so whenever an illegal development takes place.
All those who have the environment at heart know that both the Labour party and AD are committed that this area will not be developed, the Save Ramla spokesperson explained. “We are worried about the fact that the present administration is doing nothing to remove the illegal development in spite of the continuous requests for this to be done. We are worried that after the election the previous application will somehow be revived and the permits issued.”
Sources at Mepa explained to this e-newspaper that since the developer already has two permits to build villas at Ramla l-Hamra, showing that the authority was never willing to oppose the project. “If the developer manages to give Mepa a reason to withdraw the revocation, then it is very likely that he will have his way without much difficulty. One must keep in mind that by issuing an outline and a full development permit, the authority has twice agreed that it has no objection to the building of villas on environmental or planning grounds. At the same time, the current administration has always been in favour of this project,” the Mepa insiders said.
When the MEPA board decided on the original application for the villa construction, Joe Brincat, the Labour representative, was the only one who voted against. 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.
An investigation by the Mepa auditor also revealed that before the permit was issued, the developers had contacted the Office of the Prime Minister for assistance. Prime Minister Dr Lawrence Gonzi asked Leonard Callus, one of the members of his private secretariat, to set up a meeting between the developers and Mepa officials, to clear out any obstacles which were keeping the processing of the application on hold. Callus, who at the time was also a Mepa board member, eventually was one of the ten who voted in favour of the project.
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