Updated | NGOs and local council urge Planning Commission to reject Balluta private jetty application

The project aims to turn Balluta Bay into a berthing place for Fortina's private ferry

The St Julians and Sliema local councils and several NGOs are opposed to the ferry landing plans in Balluta Bay
The St Julians and Sliema local councils and several NGOs are opposed to the ferry landing plans in Balluta Bay

Updated at 2:40pm with statement from St Julian's Aquatic Sports Club

The St Julian's local council and 11 NGOs are urging the Planning Commission to unequivocally reject the application for a private jetty in Balluta Bay that aims to serve as a hop-on-hop-off tourist service run by Fortina hotel owners.

The application will be decided during a sitting at the Planning Authority on 3 February at 9:30am. In November of last year, residents, NGOs and Sliema and St Julian's local council representatives participated in a protest action at Balluta.

READ MORE: Residents up in arms over proposed Balluta Bay ferry landing

The St Julian's local council has also written to the Lands Authority, objecting to any concession by the authority of the seabed and the sea. It stated that the sea and the foreshore are designated as public domains according to the civil code and are consequently subject to the obligations of having them preserved both in substance and form.

"Should this application be accepted by the Planning Commission, Balluta Bay would be transformed into a berthing place for Fortina’s private ferry. This private activity would dominate and pollute this small and important bay as well as pose a constant danger to bathers and swimmers. Balluta Bay would thus suffer the same fate as the Ferries in Sliema, where this same company took over the largest part of the shore for its private ferries," the NGOs said in a statement on Saturday.

The hop-on-hop-off service will eventually include a route along the coast and different berthing spots but the application that will be discussed on Monday concerns only one berthing spot at Balluta Bay. The NGOs said that, for this reason, "it is impossible to assess the project’s impacts holistically." 

The statement also criticised the case officer for recommending such an application for approval on the basis that it encourages transport by ferry boat as an alternative mode of transport. 

"This ferry is most obviously not an alternative means of transport since it is neither a public form of transportation nor will it shift any commuting from the land to the sea. It is simply a private ferry that provides an additional service to tourists from which only Fortina will profit," the NGOs said, adding that such a project would constitute the takeover of private interests over public ones.

The participating NGOs are: Archaeological Society of Malta, Attard Residents Environment Network (AREN), Bicycle Advocacy Group, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Futur Ambjent Wieħed, Isles of the Left, Moviment Graffitti, Nature Trust Malta and Ramblers’ Malta.

St Julian's Aquatic Sports Club condemns 'misinformation campaign'

The St Julian's Aquatic Sports Club condemned the "misinformation campaign" to "sabotage" the application for the Balluta private jetty.

It said that such an application refers to a temporary and removable jetty adjacent to a waterpolo pitch that would bring funding towards the club.

"The statements reported by the media are riddled with untruths. Contrary to their claims, the jetty will not be for the exclusive use of a private company and certainly no berthing will be permitted. It can only be used as a pick up and drop off point," club president Peter Bonavia said.

He added that Fortina would be using brand new vessels compliant with the highest emission and environmental standards. "If objectors are so concerned about pollution in the bay, why don't they seek to address the real problem caused by dozens of other boats that give our children infections every summer?" he asked.

The club said that it was one of the island's major waterpolo clubs despite being one of the few without proper facilities. The revenue gained through the use of the jetty will contribute to funding an upgrade to make it possible to invest in a nursery and attract more children to the sport, the club said.