Maltatoday, 15th June 2008, by James Debono
Two months after halting the construction of a restaurant on Dwejra ridge because of “possible deviation” from plans, the Malta Environment and Planning Authority is still engaged in discussions with the developer to determine the future of the monstrous structure which still stands on the ridge.
Two months ago MaltaToday revealed that an application for a restaurant by the same person was rejected by MEPA on three separate occasions between 1998 and 2000 – only to be approved on the same place when it was later incorporated into an interpretation centre, approved by MEPA in March 2007, for the Dwejra heritage park.
The works were stopped because of “possible deviations from the approved plans”. But two months later MEPA would not even confirm whether there were any deviations from approved plans.
“Works are still halted on the ‘Dwejra interpretation centre’ and there are on-going discussions between the Management Steering Committee and the developer,” a spokesperson for MEPA told MaltaToday.
The Management Steering Committee is composed of the local council and MEPA.
San Lawrenz mayor Noel Formosa would likewise not reveal whether any deviation from plans has been found, confirming that discussions with the developer are still ongoing.
MaltaToday is informed that the most significant deviation from the approved plans was the use of a concrete instead of steel in what was supposed to be a removable structure.
Yet it would be difficult for MEPA to remove the eyesore because the project is fully approved by MEPA and abides to the tailor made Dwejra Action Plan, approved by MEPA in 2005 with the blessing of conservationist NGO Nature Trust and the San Lawrence local council
The applicant, Joseph Cassar, first applied for the construction of a restaurant in 1998. The application was immediately refused. A reconsideration was also turned down, on the grounds that the development would affect the surrounding garigue landscape, which contains animal and plant species, as well as geological features, that should be protected. In February 2000, another application was again refused by MEPA’s appeals board on the grounds that the undeveloped coastline had to be protected.
But in October 2006, Joe Cassar applied this time for the construction of an interpretation centre and a restaurant – citing the newly approved Qawra-Dwejra Heritage Park as a justification.
Cassar had in fact been chosen by the heritage park’s management as the developer of its new interpretation centre.
He was the only person to answer an expression of interest that MEPA had asked the council to publish. The call was aimed at anyone owning land in the area who was willing to host the new interpretation centre.