Thousands of objections to Comino proposal despite Hili’s PR offensive

The submission of objections to the development of Comino being organised by Moviment Graffiti has to date collected well over 10,000 objections. The Planning Authority site, meanwhile, has close to another 900 direct objections.

People are well aware that the fears being voiced by environmental NGOs of what could happen if the proposed development of Comino were approved are not unfounded.

Over the years, there have been several instances of companies striking deals with the government that saw land previously designated for tourism purposes transformed to accommodate high-priced residential or commercial units.

Leading environmental NGOs have urged the public to oppose the project, arguing that the development could become a “Comino village” of permanent residences through legal loopholes and added that it is “shocking that such a development is even being considered”.

The plans for Comino, which the Planning Authority (PA) is presently considering, would see the site of the former Comino Hotel redeveloped. This will include the replacement of the nine derelict bungalows at Santa Marija Bay with a larger complex of 19 villas, complete with a convenience store and amenities.

As the number of objections against plans to create a complex of villas on the island of Comino continues to rise, the company behind the proposal, MV Hospitality, reacted by pledging that it will “respect and uphold Comino’s Natura 2000 status”. More recently, it stated that it has “no intention or interest” in turning the development into a residential site.

Corinthia Ħal Ferħ

In 2021, The Shift reported on Corinthia’s deal with the government on the luxury residential project after the controversially low amount of compensation paid by the hotel group to turn former public land into luxury residential villas.

Initially, the Ħal Ferħ complex (Għajn Tuffieħa), a former British military barracks converted into a tourist complex by Air Malta, was sold by the government to Island Hotels Ltd to be repurposed as a timeshare tourism complex. However, the deed stipulated that this land would only be used for tourism purposes.

Yet, soon after Corinthia bought Island Group, formerly owned by the Zahra family, Alfred Pisani (one of the founders of Corinthia Group) changed the plans for the area and abandoned the timeshare project. Instead, he entered discussions with the government for part of the land to be used to build 25 luxury residential villas, significantly raising the commercial value of the project.

In June last year, The Shift reported that Corinthia Group had flattened a parcel of land at Ħal Ferħ when it had not yet received the permit from the Planning Authority to develop the 25 residential villas.

Joseph Portelli’s Jerma Project

In July, the Marsaskala Residents Network expressed strong objections to any extension of the built footprint of the abandoned Jerma Hotel site after The Shift revealed that the project fronted by Joseph Portelli was selling residential units when an application for a permit had not even been filed.

The site of the abandoned Jerma hotel, after the hotel closed its doors in 2007, was strictly for tourism development and the previous site owners went through a decade of failed attempts to obtain approval to tear down the hotel and build a mixed-use complex.

Three months after Portelli’s acquisition of the Jerma site, which was previously designated as a tourism-only site, the government changed the development brief, allowing for residential development.

Eden Leisure Group’s commercial office space

In August, the Eden Leisure Group was advertising banners on the new development stating “commercial retail and office spaces” were “coming soon”, even though this goes against the permit conditions.

Initially, the Planning Authority had objected to the building of the 13-storey hotel opposite the Intercontinental Hotel in Paceville, as it included two office floors, which is not permitted according to the Height Limitation Policy.

After the Malta Tourism Authority approved the touristic development, the Planning Authority conceded.  It, however, insisted a condition be imposed – the two additional floors would only be used as part of the hotel and only to host the employees of the same group, including those of other hotels in the area, including the Intercontinental. Furthermore, they were not to be rented out as commercial office spaces.

Even before the project was built, the space was already being marketed for rent despite the public deed between the Planning Authority, the Malta Tourism Authority and the Eden Leisure Group.

Fortina Hotel

In 2017, a residential complex comprising 109 apartments rising 15 floors above street level was included in a planning application that envisioned demolishing the existing Fortina 4-star hotel and adding five additional floors to the existing 17-storey hotel tower.

Including  21,000 square metres of apartments in the Fortina development indicated that the government had changed the area’s zoning, which was transferred to the developers in the 1960s on the condition that its use is limited to tourism development.

When The Shift asked Carlo Mifsud, the Chief Executive Officer of the Lands Authority at the time, whether the Lands Authority had approved any changes to the original deed to enable residential development, the questions went unanswered.

Objections to the Comino application PA/4777/20 can be submitted to the Planning Authority by 23 January online at: https://pa.movimentgraffitti.org/permit/24

                           
                           
                               
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Thomas
Thomas
8 days ago

It’s always the same. The PA sets restrictions and issues them in answer on a building site application. When the developer isn’t granted what he applied for, just go to the PM or some other high ranking PLer in the govt, and the developer gets what he wants.

I call such a way of administration ‘Lex Partit Laburista’ as such procedings always undermine the law, regulations based on that law and always not just undermines the authority of the PA, as it should be an authority in the planning sector, but always exposes that authority as just being the ‘implementer of the orders from Castille’.

Recent examples in that sector of societal life have proven that it demands a huge effort of protest and action by the people concerned who live in the area which is affected by the developers plannings to bring the PL govt to reconsider and make a u-turn.

I wonder what kind of tourists are these proposed new hotels to attract in the first place and to what rates for a stay with B&B per night. Malta isn’t among the ‘cheap destinations’ when it comes to the rates of hotels for a holiday. The more the PL govt is turning this once beautiful islands into a jungle of concrete buildings, the lesser of these so called ‘quality tourists’ will consider a holiday in Malta. For those who want to have nice and clean beaches with tranquility close to the sea, they go to Greece. Those who like to experience a holiday in Dubai, they go there (the last place I would ever think of visiting).

One has had to learn that every promise given in regards of respecting natura 2000 spaces don’t hold water as this has been proved to be merely some sort of lip service paid in order to calm down the public.

The PL, just like the MLP before, always thinks that and acts in a way as if they ‘posess and own’ Malta. There is not the slightest sign by them that they act in accordance with an attitude that serves the real meaning of governing which is that a party elected into government is ‘entrusted’ with ruling it and protect the landscape, the people and not to sell it for whatever economical gain to those who just ruin it.

Maybe some of those who for whatever reasoning voted PL and helped that party to gain their once again landslide victory in the last GE, might one day in future wake up themselves to their mistake when the dustbin arrives around the corner of the place where they live themselves. Worst it will be, when the dustbin hits the house of their close neighbour or even worst that where they reside in themselves and see their walls crumble like in other examples. But by then it will be too late because the PL has still plenty of time (four years) to let her ‘policy of continuity’ do its work.

The PL by her policies, since the era of Joseph Muscat, has turned Malta into a hellish place, hellish for its residents, hellish for tourists who can’t get a nights sleep because of the noise surrounding them, hellish for people who prefer quality of life in environmental as well as in security regards. But is has become a paradise for all those who couldn’t give a damn about the concerns of their neighbours and ordinary people who have to work to earn a living. It all adds up to the fact that many Maltese even cannot afford the rents to live in these new concrete bunkers because these buildings have been, as I suspect, raised for financial purposes. Otherwise, the PL would have to search for her lost social soul to have these flats being rented out on rates that are affordable and in line with what the people who work in Malta earn. The real difference between Mintoff and Muscat. From Socialism to greedy Capitalism, a transformation of a party by 180 degrees.

The PL has sold its soul and I think that it won’t get it back, and so the Malta I once liked that much is also gone, never to return. Things weren’t ‘perfect’ back in 2011, but they were not like what I have seen the last time when I was in Malta in 2019.

Francis Said
Francis Said
8 days ago
Reply to  Thomas

Hear hear. A true and accurate picture of “liberal” Malta.
The PL and the GWU have formed a strategic partnership with the big lobby groups, friends of friends and the persons of trust that can donate huge sums of money to the Party to enable them to pass any crumbs left to the citizen who works hard to live a decent life.
Whilst all this is going on the number of people who are just above, or on, or below the poverty line is increasing.
The epitome of bad government rules the waves.

T. P.
T. P.
7 days ago

At the end of the day, the ultimate beneficiaries of the proposed development shall be the ultra rich well off, whether they are the developers, hangers-on or owners of the select villas.

So the authorities are ready to offer them for the forseeable future the site in question provided of course they are well off.

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