Times of Malta, 28th July 2008, by Mark Micallef

Public access to the tiny picturesque beach nestled by the Fomm ir-Riħ cliffs has been a bone of contention for well over 25 years but this time the Ramblers Association is pledging to put its foot down.

The organisation has been actively lobbying the authorities to secure public access to the bay, located on the shore of a stretch of private land not far from Mġarr. But, so far, it has all been in vain and tomorrow they intend to kick off a public campaign with a protest walk to the site.

The area is part of an estate that includes an old gun post at the top of the cliffs that over the years was converted to a villa. Problems with access started in the mid-1960s when the owners decided to close a public path which ran right next to the house.

There were several protests and complaints in the press and a compromise was eventually reached in the 1980s when the owner voluntarily decided to construct a new path down to the beach that was cut on the limestone cliff on the right side of the bay.

The association tracked down the contract, which had been signed between the owner at the time, Frederick Maynard, and the government.

“While, at the time, Mr Maynard took it upon himself to create a new path at his own expense, nowhere did the government barter this second access with the other public path,” Lino Bugeja, president of the Ramblers Association, said.

The association, in fact, is insisting that the second path – which has now been made all but impracticable with shrubs and trees growing in it as well as a gate blocking the access – is not adequate.

“We want the government to reclaim the old pathway, which would make the bay accessible to everyone,” Mr Bugeja said.

The association met the Lands Department and the former Home Affairs Minister countless times in connection with the matter but nothing came of those meetings, Mr Bugeja said.

Moreover, over the past few years, the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (Mepa) issued a couple of enforcement notices over illegal work at the site, which includes the extension of a path, wide enough for a car to go through, leading from the villa to the beach.

The owner has been notified but no action has been taken so far, despite the area actually being scheduled as a Natura 2000 site.

The walk will start off at Ras ir-Raħeb in Baħrija at 6.30 p.m. and end at the belvedere overlooking Fomm ir-Riħ, because the rest of the path is not deemed to be safe enough for a large group of people to walk through although some of the association’s committee members will be walking down to the beach.