The Planning Authority (PA) will tomorrow be deciding the fate of a rural part of the southern tip of Malta in the area known as Ta’ Kalanka in Delimara where the redevelopment of an existing derelict hotel is being proposed in an ODZ (Outside Development Zone) and closely located to several protected sites.
In view of the planning board meeting which will be held tomorrow morning, during which a final decision will be taken on Development Application PA/02767/16 for the “Redevelopment of existing derelict hotel consisting of the demolition of existing buildings, construction of a new hotel and upgrading of outdoor areas within committed footprint, including environmental friendly measures,” BirdLife Malta, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar (FAA) and Nature Trust-FEE are today calling on the planning board of the Planning Authority to refuse permission.
The three eNGOs state that this redevelopment proposal is unacceptable on several counts, and have already jointly raised their environmental concerns over this development. BirdLife Malta had submitted its comments in three separate occasions in June 2016 at Project Description Statement (PDS) stage, in February 2017 at Environmental Planning Statement (EPS) stage and most recently in July 2017 (revised EPS stage). Nature Trust-FEE had also submitted its comments in November 2016 (at PDS stage) and in July 2017 (at EPS stage).
However the final development drafts are still of concern for the natural environment due to several issues which have not been seriously addressed.
First and foremost, the development is located in a very remote and rural area on the Delimara Peninsula. The introduction of a hotel which is being marketed as a form of eco-lodging in this untouched gem will permanently alter its natural state and sadly pave the way for new development in what should be an ODZ. If approved, the application will feed the ongoing continued depletion of our limited green areas, once again for short-term economic gain to the detriment of the residents of Malta.
The proposed hotel development on the site of the ruins of a hotel which closed down in the 1980s increases the footprint of the existing building by 561m², whilst an additional 480m² will be occupied by terraces and a swimming pool resulting in a total footprint of 1,050m² with an additional floor. This is in clear breach of national policy regulation for developments in ODZ (Rural Policy and Design Guidance, 2014) and will also lead to sealing the ground and soil.
The Marsaxlokk Bay Local Plan had planned to designate the area as the Delimara National Park where priority would be given to conservation, protection and improvement of the natural heritage. This, however, never proceeded. Building up the area would go against efforts to protect the site and safeguard its natural and cultural heritage. The Delimara Peninsula is home to two fortresses (Fortizza tas-Silġ and Fortizza ta’ Delimara) and two batteries (Wolseley Battery and St Paul’s Battery) – all of which are in a very dilapidated state. The NGOs strongly recommend that the Government should seek to restore such historical sites and put them to good use for the public to enjoy whilst enacting the plan to declare the peninsula a park, even though this has been on hold for decades. It is useless giving the green light to further hotels, and yet these are surrounded by a countryside in total neglect.
The hotel development will increase human activity from hotel guests and beach facility users in the area leading to disturbance and damage to habitats and wildlife if sufficient mitigation and management measures remain absent which is currently the case. Further environmental concerns that are not adequately addressed in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) are increased traffic (both during construction and operation of the project) causing significant additional air pollution to the area, dust emission and noise impact. The NGOs are also concerned that the general public using the area to swim will not have access to adequate parking. Facilities for parking bicycles also seem to have been forgotten in this ‘eco-friendly’ hotel and such facilities should be extended for public use.
The Environment & Resources Authority (ERA) has insisted on the downscaling of the development as would be necessary to protect the rural character of the surrounding coastal area. Its recommendation has however fallen on deaf ears, with the PA case officer ignoring the legitimate concerns raised and instead recommending the development for approval.
Read the Maltese version of the press release here.