After being prevented from holding a press conference to call on the Planning Authority to honour its public declaration to remove an illegal gate in Baħrija, the president of the Ramblers’ Association told The Shift that “the (planning) system is completely broken”.
“It works in favour of whoever carries out development illegally,” Ingram Bondin said. “So we have someone who illegally installed a gate that prevented people from accessing the coast. They then applied to sanction it, with even more time for the gate to block access to the public.”
“In the meantime, the gate was not removed, even though it was installed illegally, with no fines being levied. A year has passed since all of that; now, they are going to appeal the decision to remove it as well,” he added.
The gate, located in the picturesque Blata Tal-Melħ area in Baħrija, blocks public access to the coastline.
“We were going to hold the press conference in front of the gate when we were spotted by what seemed to be landowners. They began calling each other up and were referring to me by name, and they complained to me about media being present,” Bondin said.
“The landowners kept insisting that media personnel would not be allowed to enter, with one of them claiming that the road belonged to him, not just the gate. It did not seem that he had evidence to prove this,” he added.
This led to the association calling off the press conference in spite of the fact that a police officer showed up and informed all present parties that the association did, in fact, have a right to be there.
“One of them kept insisting that they would call the police, and they did. A police officer showed up and told them that the activists have the right to remain on site, with the landowners insisting that media could not record what was happening,” Bondin said.
The gate remained in place for a year until the Planning Commission publicly declared on 8 April that it would issue an enforcement notice for its removal.