The axe still hangs on Ramla l-Hamra -
Appeals’ Board decision 'controversially' postponed to November
Fri, 11 July 2008

The threat on Ramla l-Hamra is still on as on Friday the Mepa planning appeals board postponed the hearing, instead of cancelling it, despite the applicant having failed to pay the fees for the appeal to be heard.

At the beginning of the hearing the appeals board said that the appellant had not paid the relevant fees to have his appeal heard.

In similar cases, the application would have been annulled. But the board’s decision on this controversial case was to postpone the decision on whether to annul or not the application. The hearing will now take place on 28 November 2008.

In fact the applicant, Emidio Azzopardi, did not pay the right legal fee, which is 5 per cent of the total development, for the appeal. The lawyer representing Mr Azzopardi asked the Mepa lawyer Anthony Degaetano to be given the opportunity to pay the full fee, but Mepa turned down the applicant’s request.

Yet, ONE News reports, in similar cases the application would be annulled. The appeal’s board chairman, Ian Spiteri Bailey, though decided that the hearing should be deferred to 28 November.

This effectively means that the axe still hangs on Ramla l-Hamra, as once again Mepa failed to give a definite no to the developers seeking the monstrous building of villas in the area.

'Appeal should be cancelled' - environmentalists

This decision has continued to irk environmentalists who made their way to Gozo to follow the hearing and found also time to stage a small protest.

Miriam Cremona, environmentalist and member of Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar said: “Had it been a normal appellant, not a developer, the decision would have not been the same. The appeal should be cancelled and the development stopped. Now we will have to wait until November.”

Earlier, environmentalists and Gozo residents gathered at the Gozo University Centre, in Xewkija, to stage a protest just before the crucial Mepa appeals board meeting.

Yet the protest did not yield the wanted results.

Gozo Eco-Island?!!

Ironically, a few miles away from where the protest and appeals board hearing was staged, Giovanna Debono, the Gozo Minister, launched a public consultation on government’s “initiative” to make Gozo an eco-island.

Environmentalists are considering this move as hypocritical because while Gozo has been designated as an eco-island, Debono has never expressed herself against the large development of villas at Ramla l-Hamra.

“Gozo is being destroyed by uncontrolled development,” Emmanuel, a Gozitan psychologist, told during the protest. “In this small island there are no natural resources and tourism is the only resource we have. If Mepa and government will continue to destroy our environment it will be the end of Gozo.”

“All we are asking for here is the respect for our environment and respect for us. It’s not fair to protect the interests of the few, the interests of the developers. Ramla l-Hamra is one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. We need to control this unwise development, its destroying our island. This is corruption and is being initiated by the government,” said Emmanuel.

“The Government and the Church can do a lot of things: they can direct the nation towards a different way, better way for us and for the young generation. Today, in the protest, we’re just a few people because it’s always the same story: complain, complain, complain and do nothing about it,” he concluded.

Paul Buttigieg, from the environmental NGO SOS Hondoq: “I will always give my support to events like this, because Malta and Gozo must continue to fight for environmental protection. Days ago the ‘The Times’ reported that we are the worst nation in protecting our heritage and our environment. I think it is essential to protect the beauty of our island and lead the nation towards an equitable development. The government and Mepa are protecting the interests of those few, the upper class. It seems that this monstrous construction in Ramla l-Hamra, right next to land protected under the EU’s Habitats Directive, is hiding corruption and strong links between economic and political interests.”
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12 Jul 2008 by