Environment minister recommends Wied Ghomor as public domain site

Environment minister Josè Herrera has recommended Wied Ghomor to be considered as public domain in a bid to protect the environment

The Wied Ghomor ODZ site in Swieqi includes the disused cow farm
The Wied Ghomor ODZ site in Swieqi includes the disused cow farm

Environment minister Josè Herrera has recommended Wied Ghomor, as well as the Inwadar Nature Park, to be considered as public domain.

The Public Domain Act permits citizens and NGOs to recommend land and property to be listed as public domain, meaning that it cannot be used for commercial reasons while also guaranteeing unrestricted access to the public.

The Wied Ghomor ODZ site in Swieqi includes a disused cow farm, on which the owners had proposed a tourist village spread over 13,000 square metres of land.

Following an outcry by residents and environmentalists in 2016, Rodrick Fenech, owner of Mensija Real Estate Ltd, withdrew his plans for the 116-room tourist village, but announced that he will be making another proposal which does not go beyond the footprint of the existing abandoned livestock farm.

An application for a 133-room old people's home instead of a quarry in another part of Wied Ghomor was also refused by a unanimous decision by the Planning Authority last year.

The valley has also attracted a number of application for the redevelopment of existing rural buildings prompting various objections from residents and environmental groups.

Inwadar, on the other hand, is the area already identified as a  national park, neighbouring the proposed campus for American University of Malta (AUM), which is earmarked over 18,000 square metres of presently undeveloped ODZ land.

The government had at first proposed to build the AUM over a campus stretching across 90,000 square metres of virgin land, but later downscaled the area to 18,000 square metres after being met with protests.

In making his recommendations, Herrera described the Public Domain Act as “a landmark” that will better-protect the environment, signalling that more recommendation could be in the pipeline.

“At the moment, the ministry is studying the possibility of delineating certain old countryside passage ways which could also be similarly declared, and which would therefore guarantee better access to the general public,” Herrera said.

eNGOs Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar and Friends of the Earth also put forward a number of proposals, many of which are presently earmarked for development.

These sites include Manoel Island, which is earmarked for construction of villas, hotels and a public park around Fort Manoel by MIDI, and Wied Garnaw, which includes an area identified for an ODZ old people's home.

Other sites also include Hondoq in Qala, which was the site previously earmarked for a tourist village turned down last year by the PA, Kalanka in Delimara where the site of a derelict hotel was proposed for development, and St George's Bay, which is being proposed for massive high-rise development on the coastline as well as a beach for the ITS development.

The inclusion of these sites in the public domain could have an impact on pending planning applications.

These applications will now be vetted by the Planning Authority, and those approved will be up for discussion before Parliament.

Other sites recommended by the eNGOs include:

  • Three historic landmark trees, Ta’ Xbiex
  • The Valletta coastline and Fort St Elmo
  • St Thomas Bay (Marsascala) to Xrobb l-Għaġin (Marsaxlokk)
  • Sites from Siġġiewi to Żurrieq
  • Sites: Pinetum beyond Floriana fortification walls and Argotti, St Philips and Sa Masion Public Gardens
  • A stretch of land from Ġnejna to Mtaħleb
  • Villa Guardamangia, Pietà
  • Simblija (including Wied ir-Rum, Ta’ Baldu and Wied Ħażrun)
  • Comino
  • Ċittadella, Victoria, Gozo
  • Ta’ Ċenċ, Sannat
  • Ħas-Saptan and Wied Żembaq
  • Il-Ballut tal-Wardija
  • Il-Ballut tal-Imgiebaħ
  • Ras ir-Raheb and Qlejgħa
  • Fomm ir-Riħ