Change to public domain law to enable redevelopment of AX’s Qawra lidos

Change could trigger ripple effect, with other government concessions on the coastline following suit, effectively rendering the law pointless.

 

The changes the Planning Authority is proposing to the Public Domain Act will declassify 13,000 square metres of Qawra coastline and enable Anglu Xuereb’s AX Group to re-negotiate a new 65-year concession for its Sunny Coast and Suncrest lidos.

While the hotel group has already obtained the planning permits necessary to re-develop its lidos, there since the mid-80s, the Public Domain Act as it stands does not allow the government to give the group a new 65-year concession on the area.

To circumvent the legal obstacle, the Planning Authority has opened for public consultation a proposal to remove the area where the lidos stand from the public domain so parliament could then approve the new concession through a simple majority vote.

The same exercise is being carried out for the Chalet in Sliema, for which the government is considering a 65-year lease for it to be redeveloped. In this case, bids are requested from interested parties until 1 February.

Through the 2016 law piloted by then environment minister Jose’ Herrera, all of the country’s foreshore was declared as public domain, meaning the first 15 metres from the shore is to be publicly accessible and cannot be commercialised.

The law is difficult to enforce without political will – Malta’s coastline is peppered with private lidos, concessions and sanctioned illegalities. And it seems political will is lacking, despite the law having been enacted by a Labour administration that remains in power.

Denise Xuereb replied to The Shift’s questions insisting that existing public access to the foreshore will be maintained. The lido will not be removed, and in fact, the company is seeking to extend the concession “on the same footprint”.

In the 80s, no real planning laws existed, and public land was given or leased to seek or reward political support or boost the economy. AX Group benefitted from this and now wants to extend the concession it has profited from for the last four decades for another 65 years.

Denise Xuereb insisted that when the public domain law was enacted, it had not considered areas of the coast that had already been allocated.

Yet these were concessions given for a period of time.

If the concession for the AX Group is renewed, it could create a ripple effect along the entire country’s coastline that would render the public domain law effectively null and void. Others could use the case as a precedent to contest or ignore the public domain law, effectively rendering it meaningless.

But, speaking to The Shift, the AX Group’s Denise Xuereb said, “What others do is not our company’s responsibility.”

Last February, just a few weeks before the general elections, the Planning Authority approved two applications filed by the AX Group so the 13,000 square metres of public land given to them by concession in the 80s could be redeveloped by demolishing the two lidos and adjoining areas, excavating and redeveloping the entire site.

The group will exploit the concession to build a 200-space car park and other commercial activities, including retail space and restaurants.

The government and the Planning Authority did not reply to questions about why the area around Suncrest and Sunny Coast had been selected for exemption from the public domain law.

Speaking to The Shift, Xuereb stressed that the area’s re-development would retain the same footprint as the existing lidos.

Without mentioning their demand for a new and extended concession, Xuereb insisted that the current public access to the foreshore, guaranteed by law, is to remain even with the declassification.

While the lidos have been there for almost 40 years, parts were built illegally. It was only many years later, in 2010, that the Planning Authority sanctioned the illegalities after an array of enforcement orders.

The Suncrest Hotel was built on a 1986 permit issued under the infamous Labour minister Lorry Sant for “the building of apartments with basement and lidos” in an area initially earmarked for bungalows.

Public consultation on the lidos’ declassification is open until 5 January through the Planning Authority.

                           
                           
                               
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Francis Said
Francis Said
1 month ago

The construction and hospitality sectors use their influence decisions of governance. The 4th floor of the PL’s HQ is where policies are enacted.

Last edited 1 month ago by Francis Said
Alb
Alb
1 month ago
Reply to  Francis Said

Even taking half of the road in mosta hux ax
Tal misthija pinching public land

Greed
Greed
1 month ago

These so called successful businessmen wouldn’t be so successful if it wasn’t for the brown envelopes and who they know in government regardless which one is in power?

Bamboccu
Bamboccu
1 month ago

U mhux hekk Sur Xuereb.
Int, Portelli, Stivala, Polidano, Vassallo, Pisani, Fenech, Debono u l-kumpament….L-Allat tal Pajjiz.
Ir rovina tant hi kbira li Malta spiccat pajjiz tal JAQQ.
It tort u kollu tal politikanti li tawkom dak li dejjem ridtu.

Alb
Alb
1 month ago
Reply to  Bamboccu

Anke lanes tat toroq jiehdu dawn asheb u ara .
Tmur sa hdejn il lidl tal mosta u tara ax xaghmel u il poltikanti xejn skiet assolut. The institutions are working imma umbad tibni dura go ghalqa u anke larmata tigi biex twaqqalek kollox.

Dorothy Borg
Dorothy Borg
1 month ago
Reply to  Bamboccu

Imisskom tistħu dawk kollha li taw il permess lil AX Holdings li jieħu l’art pubblika sa ma xifer tal-baħar għax lanqas pied ma ħallew aħseb u ara kemm ħallew il ħmistax ilu metru skond il liġi.Aħna ċ-cittadini lanqas nistaw nimxu minn naħa tal- Qawra Palace Ghan naħa tal – Luzzu minn ma’ xatt għax trid titla’mit-triq.Anke t-turisti qegħdin igergru għax ma jistgħux jinżlu joqogħdu jirrilassaw ma’ ġenb il-baħar u lanqas jinżlu jgħumu quddiem is- Seashells Resort (Suncrest Hotel ).L-art pubblika hija tal-poplu mhux tal-bażużli bħal Anġlu Xuereb u ħafna oħrajn bħalu.
Nispera li l’ Planning Authority terġa’ tagħti din l-art pubblika lura lil poplu Malti u Għawdxi.

B.micallef
B.micallef
1 month ago

L-art ta ex.Nylon Knitting Qormi, tinghata bi prezz redikolu ta
Eur.7 miljuni, redikolu Eur.110 per sqm., il-propjeta tal poplu malti tinsreraq mil hbieb tal-PN PL komplici it-tnejn. Il-poplu Malti jhallas
KERA (RENT) ta Eur.31 MILJUN ghal- showroom gebel u saqaf Fi ZEJTUN.
Dan mhux xejn hlief operat ta Mafia ! Il-PN SIEKET u ma jitkellem xejn
Jigiefiri KOMPLICI !

Luke
Luke
1 month ago

This is called Mafia, everyone knows that in Malta they are all corrupt and big tycoons like this do what they want, go and check how many accidents at work have occurred during this construction, but the site has not been closed and is even rewarded by changing one lawonly for him… only in Malta does this happen, let’s just hope that Europe will intervene.

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