Front Harsien ODZ condemns developers' ‘greed’, calls for end to land reclamation projects

Front Harsien ODZ has called on the authorities to remove land reclamation from the Paceville master plan and not to clear development on land reclaimed at the Jerma site

The Paceville master plan shows the new tower on reclaimed land that would obscure the classic view of the Dragonaro Casino from Sliema
The Paceville master plan shows the new tower on reclaimed land that would obscure the classic view of the Dragonaro Casino from Sliema

Front Harsien ODZ has refered to proposed land reclamation projects at Portomaso and Jerma as 'non-starters', expressing strong opinions against such development.

In a statement, the eNGO made reference to the construction of apartments in the Jerma site and at the Portomaso site in Paceville as proposed in a draft national master plan, saying it was opposed to any land reclamation projects carried out for real estate and speculation and was therefore opposed to the construction of apartments in both sites.

"We urge civil society, political parties and local councils to unite against the greed of developers and to send a strong message that after ruining the country by development on land they should not be allowed to ruin the coast and the sea," Front said.

In September, Porto Notos Limited submitted a planning application proposing, among other things, land reclamation works on the site of the Jerma Palace Hotel. The Marsaskala local council has also voted against the and urged the government to buy back the site and turn into an open space for the public to enjoy. On the other hand, the Paceville master plan, unveiled last week by the Planning Authority, proposes a land reclamation project over 38,700 square metres of reclaimed land which will include buildings rising up to 15 floors.

With regards to the proposed land reclamation at Portomaso, the Front insisted that any reference to land reclamation should be removed from the master plan.

"It is bewildering that such a proposal is even made in view of the fact that the land reclamation will be adjacent to a Marine Protected Area and that  developers had already been fined €120,000 for works which resulted in the degradation of the protected Posidonia meadows which are found along the coast,” Front said, adding that the coastal zone also includes the protected Qaliet wetland.

Moreover, the Front criticised the master plan, which expressed a preference for coastal development, including land reclamation.

“Increasing construction activity opposite a popular swimming zone is a non-starter. We expect master plans to contain development rather than doing everything possible to increase space for development even on the sea," it said.

With regards to the proposed land reclamation at Jerma, the Front called on the Government Property Division (GPD) not to issue its clearance for development on land reclaimed from the sea. Developers are legally obliged to notify the government of their intentions whenever they plan developments on public land, and the government has to issue a clearance stating that it does not object to the development in principle. In the case of Jerma site, although most of the land around the abandoned hotel is privately owned, the sea itself is considered to be public land.

According to a spokesperson for parliamentary secretary Deborah Schembri, the GPD has to date not been notified of this application and therefore has not issued any official clearance for the application to proceed.

"The development of luxury apartments on land reclaimed from the sea will simply extend the boundaries for the construction industry while introducing more development along the coast to the detriment of those using it now," the Front said.

The Front expressed satisfaction that Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil has made a clear declaration that he is opposed to land reclamation for speculation purposes.

“There should not be any land reclamation included in any development projects leading to speculation, also because this would further reduce accessibility to the coastline by the public,” Busuttil had said yesterday.

The Front said that it will be participating in the meeting of parliament's Environment and Development Planning Committee which is convened this evening to discuss the master plan for Paceville.

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