Environmental NGO Moviment Graffitti has described the Environment and Resources Authority’s July 2022 approval of the Comino hotel and bungalows proposed by Hili Ventures, despite 13,500 individual objections to the project, as “clear proof that the authorities are mere puppets in the hands of the developers”.
Graffitti was calling for support for a national protest organised by seven eNGOs entitled ‘Xebbajtuna’, set to be held on Saturday morning
Its stated goal is to oppose a “frenzy of reckless building everywhere” and uses the proposed Comino hotel as a case in point.
The proposed development by Hili Ventures subsidiary HV Hospitality Ltd will see the existing long-standing Comino hotel demolished and rebuilt into a 140-luxury hotel. Apart from the hotel, 19 serviced bungalows are planned on the other side of San Niklaw Bay.
In a Facebook post publicising the planned protest, Graffitti claimed that the use of just the bungalows “when considered in the area’s existing tranquil context will change Santa Marija Bay into a constantly occupied luxury village”.
Describing the general issue of overdevelopment being protested, Moviment Graffitti, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Ramblers Malta, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, BirdLife Malta, and Għawdix said in social media posts that “behind this wave of environmental destruction lies a web of politicians and developers who have created a system that serves the profit of the few instead of the common good.”
The NGOs have also launched a website for the protest, with a list of demands for environment and planning reform prioritising sustainability and people over big business.
In stating their case, the NGOs cited legislation and policy that have had a negative impact such as the Height Limitation Adjustment Policy for Hotels, the Rural Policy and Annex 2 of DC15 and the recently introduced Legal Notice allowing for the regularisation of ODZ buildings.
Graffitti has accused developers such as Hili Ventures of ‘greenwashing’ their development plans in order for them to appear more sustainable and environmentally friendly. This came following a statement by HV Hospitality saying that the overall built up area will be reduced compared to the existing development and that some of the development will include the return the existing development to its natural state.
In an interview with LovinMalta, HV Hospitality consultant Andre Scerri claimed that the whole area surrounding the proposed hotel and bungalows at and around San Niklaw bay will be fenced off “like all hotels in the world”.
The fencing would mean that San Niklaw Bay’s sandy beach, which the public has historically been allowed to access despite forming part of the original 150-year concession granted in 1960, will now be closed off.
When asked about access to the beach, a spokesperson for the developer claimed that while public access to the beach may have worked within the previous owner’s three-star business model, the new business model will not allow for that.
HV Hospitality said that “nothing is changing at San Niklaw beach. The Comino hotel has always had this small beach for guest use, as is typical for seaside hotels all over Malta. The bay will remain accessible to mariners and boat owners as before.”
The project, PA/04777/20, now awaits the Planning Authority’s recommendation.
The NGO-planned protest will be held in Valletta on Saturday 27 May at 10:30, with the NGOs calling for all politically unaffiliated groups to endorse the cause, asking all members of the public to attend in support of the cause.
Did anyone even have a doubt that this would have happened?
Difficult to prove, but for sure there is a way to short cut objections and get approvals from these boards.
Until the people sitting on these boards are investigated at random and held personally responsible nothing shall change
Just check their fb pages as most will flaunt their wealth far beyond there means?
Somebody needs to take this to the EU courts this government is acting in such a corrupt way when they ignore the voice of the people saying no and allow the greedy few to continue destroying our island