Time of Malta, 11th July 2008

Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar yesterday maintained that the only equitable solution in the Ramla Bay project is the government’s acquisition of the ODZ site in Gozo at a non-development value.

“This is not unrealistic, especially considering the option of exchanging it for public land available within the development zones,” the NGO said.

The Mepa Appeals Board meets in Gozo today to hear the Ramla developers’ appeal against the authority’s rescinding of their permit to build 23 villas with pools on the Ramla hillside, partly on ODZ land. The permit, which had been granted in the face of strong opposition by the Gozitan Save Ramla group and Maltese environment NGOs, had subsequently been rescinded on grounds of false information being provided since the developer’s application failed to state that part of the footprint included a public road.

The reversal of the permit took place shortly after a protest in Valletta organised by the environment NGOs drew an estimated 1,500 protestors to Valletta to express their disgust at this and other mega-projects threatening Gozo.

“Still, there were those who at the time voiced the opinion that Mepa could have quashed the project through a much more effective route and instead chose a system that provided a temporary respite but could be reversed after the election,” the NGO said.

“These worries were further fuelled by the fact that over the last nine months, the authorities have made no attempt to clear the many illegal structures on the site, in spite of repeated calls for such action on the part of the Save Ramla Group. The ripping up of the trees (public property) that flanked the public road and the developers spending time and money to clear the site would indicate that they know something that the public does not,” it added.

“Now that Gozo has been designated as an eco-island, one would imagine that one can rest easy, knowing that such projects have no place on an eco-island…or do they? The public is also alarmed by a very significant change in the line-up of the developers and ardently hopes that it will not be seeing a repeat of the Mistra JPO affair,” FAA said.