On 7 July, the board of Mepa approved at outline stage what was described as “the redevelopment of an existing fully licensed commercial complex” namely Ulysses Lodge, which was built years ago and which was used as a nightclub and for wedding receptions.

Mepa approved the building of 23 self-catering villa-style tourist units close to Ulysses Lodge.

It will now become 23 self-catering villa style residential units, with ancillary parking spaces, while a farm building will be converted into an administration centre.

Mepa says that only Zone C is to be developed.

FAA was present at the MEPA Board ‘Public Hearing’ on Wednesday when the Case Officer, Robert Vella, presented the project to the Board members, listing a great number of reasons why the application should be approved. Members of the public and NGOs were given the opportunity to expound the reasons why the application on the other hand should not be approved listing the main ones:

1. The Outline permit was granted on the grounds that the new project will occupy the same footprint as the old structures, when in fact it is over twice as large.

2. The Rationalisation schemes were supposed to prevent any more development in ODZ (Out of Development Zones).

3. The site is of high landscape value, and an ecologically sensitive area bordering a Natura 2000 site.

4. The site is an archaeologically sensitive area.

When challenged by FAA, the applicant claimed that an in-depth study by four archaeologists confirmed that the area is of no particular archaeological interest.

What MEPA Says:

Ulysses Lodge - Ramla Bay

THE FACTS, FIGURES AND STORY (source : http://www.mepa.org.mt)

What and where is Ulysses Lodge?

Ulysses Lodge which is situated in the site known as Ta’ Marin in the l/o 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 disturded 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.

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