Fomm ir-Riħ government deed gave public perpetual right and access to foreshore

Ramblers Association find 1983 Fomm ir-Riħ deed giving public perpetual right and access to foreshore

Fomm ir-Rih bay
Fomm ir-Rih bay

Malta’s Ramblers Association has published a deed that shows the government has perpetual right and access to the foreshore and the sea at Fomm ir-Riħ.

The Ramblers published the excerpt on Wednesday evening, after access to a secluded bay at Fomm ir-Riħ was blocked by a metal barrier by the estate’s new owner, the Malta Developers’ Association president Sandro Chetcuti.

The environment ministry said the land has been private “for decades” and said Chetcuti had to obtain proper planning permission for the metal barrier. The owner claims it was installed because the area is private and the path leading down to the sea was in a dangerous state. Chetcuti says he does not want to be held responsible if a person is injured there.

But he added that Chetcuti does not want to block off access to the beach and is in talks with authorities to reach a solution.   

The deed, enrolled in 1983, shows that the estate’s representative Briton Frank Maynard, establishing gratuitously in favour of the government, a perpetual right of phblic passage and access to the foreshore and the sea.

The deed states that the right of passage over the property is to be exercised by the use of a public footpath, from which Maynard was bound to allow the public access at all times of the year.

Last week, Sandro Chetcuti defended a metal gate installed at the mouth of his estate at Fomm ir-Riħ which has barred public access to the foreshore. Confirming ownership of the extensive estate, which until recently included the secluded Villa Delfino at the top of the Bahrija promontory, Chetcuti insisted that the passageway itself leading from the public road, was privately owned despite being open to the public. “The same signs set up by the owner have been vandalised and moreover, the gate was damaged by someone who tried to pull the same gate down,” his lawyer said. 

His lawyer Michael Grech insisted that the gate served to eliminate the danger created by the current state of the passageway, as well as to limit the responsibility he had as owner of the estate itself, for accidents incurred by people crossing through the passageway. 

A 29 January 2021 report by architect Alex Torpiano, the president of environmental organisation Din l-Art Helwa, concludes that the steep and narrow passageway down Triq Fomm ir-Riħ was “a high risk for people navigating the passageway, particularly (but not only) with fading light conditions.” 

The report, seen by MaltaToday, stated that it was “important that either access through the passageway is prevented, or the edge of the passage way be marked properly, preferably with a form of railing.” 

“The same type of risk exists if people walk too close to the edge of the upper level, particularly because the edge is characterised by cracks in the ground, as the edge is eroded away by the sea spray erosion below. These particular edges can fail without warning.” 

Torpiano recommended a barrier as well as a warning sign at the edges. Additionally, he warned against the risk at beach level due to falling material from the rock levels above. “In this case, the only mitigation measure that can be suggested is to delineate a line parallel to the edge of the rock face, say a couple of metres away, and to warn people not to access this area. In this way, any falling rock pieces will not injure anybody.” 

“Whilst it is not the owners’ intention to preclude the public from reaching the foreshore, on the other hand it is likewise legitimate to avoid incidents which in turn could bring about legal responsibilities, Indeed, to date no authority has shown willingness to assume responsibility for any incident occurring at the site in question,” Grech said. 

He said Chetcuti’s intention was to allow a safe and hazard-free passageway, whilst ensuring he is not held responsible for any mishap that could lead to criminal and civil proceedings.