Two local councillors from Mellieħa and Naxxar confirmed that their respective local councils had no clue of the government’s decision to designate two areas within those localities as ‘temporary’ camping sites.
The site selected by the environment ministry in the Armier area, informally known as Qortin it-Twil, is adjacent to a site already occupied by caravans, meaning that Mellieħa’s local council was left scratching its head as to why an undisturbed area would be converted into a camping site.
“The zone they are proposing is shrubland, so it’s still untouched. Just 70 metres away, there’s the zone that is presently occupied by caravans,” said Mellieħa local councillor Gabriel Micallef who is specifically in charge of caravan zones.
“Given that there was a zone that was already occupied by caravans, I proposed that the zone that is occupied should become an official site. What I’m worried about is that the authority is proposing one zone while neglecting to explain what will happen with the zone that already is a camping site,” Micallef added.
Naxxar Mayor Anne Marie Mifsud Fenech Adami echoed similar concerns voiced by Micallef, arguing that they were not consulted about the decision to officially recognise an informal camping site along Magħtab’s coastline.
“I was very irritated by the fact that we were not consulted on this. We are elected by the people, and we are supposed to know what is going on and create things while working with government, not getting steamrolled by their plans,” the mayor said.
“This is a recurring problem, especially with state entities such as Infrastructure Malta which essentially just show up and start works without advising us beforehand. We got to know of this temporary camping site from media reports,” she added.
A spokesperson for the environment ministry reportedly said the sites were selected by the government due to the fact that they were plots of public land.
The ministry spokesperson is also quoted as referring to a process of public consultation in which a number of sites were submitted without giving any details on how the decision was narrowed down to Armier and Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq.
According to the mayor of Naxxar, whose council’s jurisdiction extends to Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq, efforts made to offer the council’s plans for the area were ignored.
“The previous local council had another project for the area which has now become the projected camping site that the environment minister outlined,” Fenech Adami said.
“Since the area is popular for water sports such as windsurfing, we wanted to make it a dedicated area with relevant facilities. We even commissioned our architect to draw up plans; we had a meeting with an association representing water sports enthusiasts, and they were very excited for the project,” she added.
Both Micallef and Fenech Adami pointed out that their hands were tied on such issues, especially given the lack of consultation and forewarning being given on such projects in their constituencies.
While Fenech Adami argued that “local councils are being reduced to nothing” and that “their autonomy is being taken away”, Micallef stated that “as a council, we don’t have the power we need to make changes within our community”.
Micallef said that the local council’s main request for Armier consisted of better enforcement to ensure that illegalities do not occur in the area, arguing that the best they could do for nearby Little Armier was convincing authorities to paint double yellow lines along the coastline to make it harder for campers and coaches to take up space.
Micallef also complained about the lack of clarity given by the authorities in terms of the plans for the new temporary camping sites, stating that no defined plans for the area were accessible to the council.
“Once we have plans in hand, we’ll be able to issue our criticism more effectively. It is difficult to criticise a proposal without knowing what the project will consist of or how the zone will be designated,” he said, adding that the local council did not have the manpower and resources to cater for more camping sites and more waste disposal needs without support from central government.
Fenech Adami similarly argued that Naxxar local council had no idea of what the environment ministry has planned for the temporary camping site in Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq.
“We’ve become a punching bag for people’s complaints; people come to us to complain about projects on which we have no say,” she said.
Both councillors stressed that their main issue was not with the existence of camping sites in their localities but the fact that they were not consulted adequately.