Hondoq ir-Rummien megaproject denied after 20 years of opposition

Mayor calls for national park ‘as soon as possible’

 

It’s been over 20 years since a megaproject complete with a hotel, villas and apartments has been on the cards for the quiet and picturesque Hondoq ir-Rummien outside of Qala, Gozo. But on Thursday those plans were rejected once and for all by the Planning Authority’s Environmental and Planning Review Tribunal.

The Tribunal has now confirmed the PA’s original 20106 unanimous decision to deny Gozo Prestige Hotels’ application to develop the 103,000 square metre site.

Speaking to The Shift News earlier this week, Qala Mayor and long-time campaigner and opponent to the project Paul Buttigieg appealed for the area to now be turned into a national park “as soon as possible”.

He noted how the area had originally been designated for afforestation but, behind the council`s back, that was changed to one of tourist and marine activities.

“I have been campaigning for over 20 years in the hope that Hondoq Bay will be preserved for those who love it and for future generations. People are saying Gozo is losing its charm, and even the President recently referred to the fact that Gozo needs to safeguard its natural capital and not become intensely developed and spoilt.”

The proposed project, with a total site area of over 103,000 square metres, was divided into several zones. It included a 110-bedroom hotel set on nine floors, 25 self-catering villas, 60 self-catering apartments, 200 multi-ownership residential units consisting of apartments, maisonettes and bungalows, over 1,200 underground car-parking spaces, a chapel, administration offices, shops and restaurants.

Augustinian Order fails to cash in

The 68 square-kilometre area itself, with its views of Comino and Malta, is owned by the Malta-based Augustinian religious order and it has been sold, on promise of sale, to Gozo Prestige Holidays on the condition that full development permits are awarded, which appears very unlikely after the loss of today’s appeal.

In the event that development permission for the land is somehow granted, the Order would receive the full sale price of Lm10,000 (Maltese liri) per tumulo. At 68 tumuli, the total sale price amounts to Lm680,000, or over €1.58 million in today’s money.

The land had been expropriated from the order by the government in 1970 for quarrying related to the construction of the Mgarr breakwater, and to place the now defunct reverse osmosis plant located on the edge of the popular sandy beach.

In late June 2002 the government returned the land to the Order, and the following week, on 4 July 2002, Gozo Prestige Holidays filed its development application.

In a study it carried out on the project in 2010, the church’s own environment commission found it difficult to justify how this project would bring greater wealth and quality of life to Gozitan in the long run.

It said, “The project will not be conserving the area’s identity and beauty, which must be the principal assets to attract tourists towards Gozo. Using the pretext of clearing the existing quarry and rehabilitate it, there is a risk of speculating on the land without any consideration for the tourism product being offered.”

The Church commission added that it was a pity that the developer had been allowed to purchase the land “without the seller realising or caring of the damage this deal would result in.”

                           
                           
                               
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Joseph Tabone Adami
Joseph Tabone Adami
1 month ago

A sense of propriety seems to have prevailed – very unusual in this age of greed and grab.

Unless I am mistaken, some very profitable deal involving land owned by the same religious order has happened smack in the heart of Paceville not long ago – with exactly the opposite outcome, however.

Carmelo Borg
1 month ago

Prosit lil pawlu butigieg sindku tal Qala. Ghalkhemm pawlu gej min N DAN HAQQU GIEHaha tal lajbor ma bezax u qabez mhux ghal Qala biss imma ghal MALTIN U L GHAWXDIN KOLLA. IS SEWWA JIRBAH ZGURRRR. DAN HAQQU GIEH IR REPUPLIKA

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