The Malta Tourism Authority has asked the Planning Authority to consult Projects Malta – the entity responsible for public private partnerships – on a pending application which aims to turn a tract of unutilised coast road at Bahar ic-Caghaq into a private beach and a carpark.
The problem is that both the Tourism Authority and Projects Malta fall under the remit of Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi.
Plans for the development include a huge car park for 346 vehicles over two levels on both sides of the roundabout facing the sea. The project includes beach facilities with two five-metre high gazebos with an oriental design on top of the parking area.
In its letter the MTA called on the PA to “consult” Projects Malta, an entity responsible for Private Public partnerships, due to the fact that “the government is trying to identify locations for the provision of facilities in currently non-accessible beaches and shoreline.”
Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, speaking in Parliament in June, had announced “a concerted effort to develop beaches in various localities around the island.”
He said that the former Chalet in Sliema had been left in a bad state and that the government would be looking at the possibility of a public-private partnership that would see it converted into a fully-fledged public beach. Similar plans, he said, would be considered in localities such as Pembroke.
The stretch of the revamped old Coast Road was left unused after the completion of the road widening and re-alignment project in Bahar ic-Caghaq approved in 2012.
The project at Bahar ic-Caghaq is being proposed by Joseph Zammit, who happens to be a business partner of Paceville entrepreneur Frank Grima.
In an interview with the Malta Business Review in 2016, Grima himself had stated that he had plans for a coastline project and a 7,000 square metre “Vietnamese style resort” which would be “part beach, part restaurant and part soft entertainment area.”
The Environment Authority wants the road to be reinstated to nature.
The project may well have hit a snag. In its formal objection, ERA noted that development permission for the new coast road was issued subject to the reinstatement of redundant areas. On this basis, it states that “the current state of the site shall not be used as a justification or pretext for its development.”
Moreover, the development was deemed to be in breach of a Conservation Order issued in 2016 in relation to l-Għadira s-Safra which seeks to preserve this coastal habitat by reinstating the natural state of bordering areas.
The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage has also expressed its concern because the site is located in the direct line of sight between Ta’ Qalet Marku and Torri ta’ L-Ghallis, both Grade 1 scheduled monuments for their historical, military and aesthetic importance.
These two towers formed part of a coastal fortifications system set in place by the Order of St John to protect the hinterland. The visual connections between these two towers and other towers forming part of this system were crucial in a period where the only means to relay messages was through a visual transmission of signals.
In April 2016, a Transport Malta spokesperson had told newspaper Malta Today that TM will be issuing a tender for works to return this particular redundant stretch of coast road to its “original state” by removing asphalt and other granular material in line with requirements set by the ERA. However, when consulted by the PA, TM did not object to Zammit’s application and called on the developers to conduct a Traffic Impact Assessment and a Road Safety Assessment.
A memo to the PA on the project application states that TM would withhold any further comments until after the assessment of the requested studies.
Since the application for the car park and beach facilities is being presented on public land, the Lands Authority has to issue its clearance for the project.
Last year the PA issued a planning circular stating that all applications on public land have to be accompanied by a clearance from the Land Authority stating that it finds “no objection in principle” to the submission of any development application on the site in question.
The circular was issued after this particular application was presented. But the circular also states that all applications due to be decided after 30 May 2016 were being suspended for a maximum period of one year until clearance was issued by the Land Authority. The Land Authority has not replied to questions on whether it has issued a clearance for the project.