‘Sham’ public consultation to give coastline to private interests

Flimkien għal Ambjent Ahjar (FAA) has strongly opposed the declassification of the three coastal sites from the public domain, arguing that the Planning Authority (PA) has not given any justification for the declassification.

In its written objection submitted to the PA, the environmental organisation said little to no information was given to the public and the stated purpose of the change in the law was so generic that “it can apply to any site imaginable”.

The changes the Planning Authority proposes 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 this legal obstacle, the PA 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.

In their objection, FAA stated that the motivation given by the government for the declassification is so broad that it can apply to anything and any site in the Maltese Islands and “would set an ugly precedent for the declassification of all Public Domain sites”.

The environmental NGO added that “practically any site in Malta can have projects or developments that ‘serve both private and public interests’. Allowing this would render the concept of public domain meaningless”.

The same concern was shared by Friends of the Earth Director Martin Galea De Giovanni, who, in reply to questions by The Shift, said: “We have always advocated that the first 15m of shoreline should remain public no matter what. This exemption will only open the floodgates to other commercial interests that have already been using public land for their own personal profit to the detriment of the public”.

FAA also protested “the cynical way this public consultation by the Minister responsible for Lands and the Planning Authority as his agent has been carried out”, arguing that the consultation “was launched during the Christmas festivities and the abortion debate without any publicity in the hope that the public would be too distracted to notice and submit comments to the proposals”.

Public consultation on the lidos’ declassification was open until 5 January.

Describing the situation as “ironic”, the NGO noted in its concluding remarks that since the law was enacted in 2016, the first changes to be made are declassifications and not the promised addition of sites to the Public Domain for exemption.

In 2017, NGOs submitted 22 sites, including Manoel Island, Comino, Pembroke, Simblija, Fomm ir-Riħ and the Ras ir-Raħeb headland, to be classified as public domain due to their established ecological and scientific importance as well as high landscape value. Yet, to date, nothing has been done to include them.

FAA underscored that “the case for the declassification has not been made as the public is being kept in the dark as to the purpose of the declassification contrary to the letter and spirit of the law. The concept of public domain has stood the test of time since antiquity, yet it is now being dismantled in the space of a few years for the benefit of private interests”.

                           
                           
                               
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Cikku
Cikku
24 days ago

banning development outright could be counterproductive considering the huge dependency on construction this country has been led into. However the development of prime public interest sites such as the coastline should be totally banned as this will only benefit the few pupetters that pulled the strings of the frail and weak politicians.

as i read from the article, the redefining of the public interest could lead to further erosion of the OZD. case in point would be the further development of fomm ir rih or the full prohibition to the public as per attempts in the last years.

the reality is that these prime areas are being sought not by the government for the interest of the public but by private interests for their own benefit. effectively meaning that the government is ultimately only functioning for the benefit of the private interest.

viv
viv
24 days ago
Reply to  Cikku

I don’t subscribe to Robert Abela’s assertion that the government is merely business-friendly, a glib term to be used as a sort of a cop-out when things go tits-up.
The much more frightening element in the equation is the parallel imprisonment of all things vital to democratic society – something Robert clearly holds dear to his heart.
Rather than a government in a parasitic relationship with business, or even symbiotic, all means are being provided for private interests to flourish – without redress – which appears to be fascism by stealth.

Last edited 24 days ago by viv
Francis Said
Francis Said
24 days ago

The concept is one. All those who would like to enjoy going to the beach will be constrained to pay.
This is the philosophy of the PL government. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer.
This is Capitalism not Socialism.

Paul Pullicino
Paul Pullicino
24 days ago

Niftakar li darba l-MLP kien “tal-haddiema” u l-PN kien “tal-kuntratturi”.

Anthony Nani
Anthony Nani
23 days ago

The Planning Authority shows what s Mickey mouse authority it is. As agent for the Minister for Lands, it is responsible for the safeguarding of the public domain, yet it gave a planning permit to AX contrary to the public domain law. This authority is expected to conduct an impartial public consultation. Mickey Mouse authority in a Mickey Mouse country.

Mellius
Mellius
22 days ago

no surprise Malta is corrupt and everyone knows it, in this shipyard there have been many accidents at work, they dumped waste into the sea, they didn’t stop for the summer blockades, all the fines made by responsible people were never paid, let’s talk about the construction tycoonMaltese, we’re not talking about anyone…

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