Natura 2000 plan wary on Ta’ Cenc development

The management plan for Ta’ Cenc is one of 22 plans issued for public consultation.

Development in Ta’ Cenc may have a negative impact on the Ta’ Cenc Natura 2000 site, especially if this “is not restricted to disturbed areas and if located close to important habitat types,” the draft management plan for this site warns.

The management plan for Ta’ Cenc is one of 22 plans issued for public consultation.

For the past two decades hotel owner Victor Borg has been trying to develop villas in the area under the pretext of a heritage park.

The latest plans include the construction of an additional 15 villas next to the current villa complex and expansion of the hotel and residential development in the Fuq tal Gruwa area adjacent to the hotel.

According to the management plan important factors which have to be considered are the destruction or fragmentation of habitats, impacts on adjacent habitats from construction activity, and disturbance of wildlife.

The report notes that the site is private property and can only be accessed with permission from the Ta’ Cenc Hotel. 

During a stakeholder meeting mentioned in the report the hotel owners claimed that their target is to increase tourism in the low period (from November). The owners have also claimed that they have restored rubble walls and expelled hunters and trappers from the site.

The cliffs of Ta’ Cenc hold the largest concentration of Scopoli’s shearwater in the Maltese Islands as well as smaller numbers of Yelkouan shearwaters. Ta’ Cenc is also one of the two known breeding sites of the Storm Petrel in the Maltese Archipelago.

White rocks project: Impact unknown

The Special Area of Conservation next to the White Rocks in Pembroke is “one of the richest and most important floristic sites in the country,” the management plan for the Pembroke SAC says.

The report notes that although the White Rocks area is earmarked for redevelopment, “at this stage it is unclear what the impact of the redevelopment will be on the Natura 2000 site”.

In 2014 the government issued a 45-hectare site, of which the White Rocks complex covers 38%, with the bidders being informed that part of the site is designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

This area in Pembroke is protected for its rocky coast, watercourse and surrounding karst land. 

Between the 1870s and 1977, this area was used as a rifle range for military exercises by the British military

“In view that the site was inaccessible to non military personnel for many years, very little development was carried out, and as a result various rare and endangered plant species have survived here, making it one of the richest and most important floristic sites in the country.”

While any development will need to adhere to rules governing the management of Natura 2000 sites, a spokesperson for Economy and Investment Minister Chris Cardona had told MaltaToday in 2014 that this designation does not preclude all sorts of development. 

“It should be remembered that Natura 2000 is not a system of strict nature reserves where all human activities are excluded. The emphasis will be on ensuring that future management is sustainable, both ecologically and economically.”

The Habitats Directive of the EU designated the garigue adjacent to the abandoned White Rocks site as a Special Area of Conservation which forms part of the EU’s Natura 2000 network. 

This stretch of karstland between the existing complex and the Armed Forces’s shooting ranges is accorded a level 3 protection which effectively precludes any residential or tourism related development: in 2001, MEPA rejected a golf course for the area. The coastal zone enjoys an even higher level of protection which precludes any development. 

The White Rocks EOI highlights all ecologically and historically sensitive areas on the site. “This was specifically done so that those interested can blend their innovative ideas with the environmental aspects, particularly the ecological aspects.”

Development on the White Rocks is still governed by a 1995 development brief limiting construction to the space occupied by the derelict complex. 

The 1995 brief subdivided the White Rocks area into three zones: Zone 1 (38%) consisted of the existing holiday complex and its facilities; Zone 2 (39%) is the mixed garigue and rocky coastline; Zone 3 (23%) is agricultural land.