Times of Malta, 27th August 2008 –

Eight environmental NGOs have called on Mepa to publish online the fresh plans submitted for the extension of the Ta’ Ċenċ Hotel in Gozo.

BirdLife Malta, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, the Gaia Foundation, Light Pollution Awareness Group, Nature Trust and the Ramblers Association called on the authority to honour a commitment it made in July to give “NGOs and local councils free, unlimited access to digital plans for all planning applications through its e-applications systems”.

The NGOs said that while planning applications had been made accessible through the government’s online e-applications systems, the fresh plans submitted for Ta’ Ċenċ had not been uploaded.

The new plans were submitted on July 22 and Mepa sent written confirmation to BirdLife Malta that it could view these plans and make representations within 15 days of it being notified.

But the plans were not uploaded on the Mepa e-application system and when BirdLife Malta officials called at Mepa to view them there was no one who could provide further relevant information.

“It is unacceptable that NGOs are expected to submit their objections to a proposed development on the basis of a quick viewing of the plans,” BirdLife Malta president Joseph Mangion said.

“Mepa should honour its commitment to NGOs to provide online access to documents and should live up to its commitment to transparency in its processes.”

The NGOs also expressed concern that fresh plans were being submitted for only a part of the original proposed development, with the rest being subject to an appeal.

The project, they said, should be assessed in a holistic manner. Moreover, the fresh plans still encroached on about 30 per cent of the existing area designated as a bird sanctuary.

The issue is currently subject to a pending infringement procedure for insufficient special protection area designation opened against Malta by the European Commission in June.

A spokesman for Ta’ Ċenċ developers yesterday evening said they have instructed the appointed architectural firm, Martin Xuereb and Associates who were entrusted with the final scheme, to give a presentation of the final project to NGOs.

The spokesman added that NGOs representatives were being invited to attend the presentation at Ta’ Ċenċ today week at 5.30 p.m.