Parliamentary committee votes to give coastal areas to developers

Parliament’s standing committee for environment and development planning this afternoon approved a report requested by the lands minister to declassify two areas of public land in Qawra and Sliema.

The approval of the report prepared by the Planning Authority, revealed by The Shift earlier today, opens the way for Lands Minister Silvio Schembri to present a parliamentary resolution for 13,000 square metres of public land on the coast in Qawra to be handed over to AX Group – owners of the Suncrest and Sunny Coast hotels – for the next 65 years on land it has been occupying illegally for the last 40 years.

The report was approved by the committee’s three government MPs as the two Opposition MPs voted against it.

In a vote clarification, Opposition MP Janice Chetcuti said the PN had no issue with the declassification of the Qawra site since the two lidos have been occupying public land for decades.

The vote also paves the way for the Chalet in Sliema to be redeveloped. Here, the Opposition said it was uncomfortable voting for the declassification of the Sliema Chalet area before seeing the final plans for development.

Speaking on behalf of her colleague Stanley Zammit, she said it was for this reason that the opposition was voting against the report. She insisted the party is in favour of the investment in the two areas as long as the foreshore remains accessible to the public.

It is unclear how this is possible with developments on the shore.

The Public Domain Act was piloted and first published by former lands minister Jason Azzopardi in 2013 and later introduced by then-minister Jose Herrera in 2016. It was intended to protect the first 15 metres of the coastline, the country’s seabed and government-owned sites of historical and ecological importance against commercialisation.

No piece of public land has been added to the public domain since the law was introduced. Still, the government is already defying the law the same administration introduced.

Neither the government nor the opposition took issue with the fact that AX Group’s Anglu Xuereb has been illegally occupying the land and profiting from it for the past 40 years.

A court case over the issue initiated by the Lands Authority in 1991 has still not been concluded.

Instead of returning the land to the public, Lands Minister Silvio Schembri is now negotiating with Xuereb to grant the group a 65-year title on the 13,000 square metres of land with unobstructed sea views.

So far, the minister has refused to state the amount of compensation requested.

A resolution to transfer the land to the AX Group is to be tabled in parliament.

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Lawrence Mifsud
Lawrence Mifsud
2 months ago

It will cost you to dip your toe into any of Malta’s “seemingly endless beaches” (as described by a holiday advert)

Franco Vassallo
Franco Vassallo
2 months ago

So now the government is rewarding who occupies and develops public land illegally . How sad that government rewards law breakers and ultimately encourages lawlessness.

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