Blue Lagoon pier threatens iconic landscape, culture watchdog warns

While SCH objects to visual impact on iconic landscape, Birdlife calls for carrying capacity studies to determine number of visitors

TM is proposing the construction of a pier within the Blue Lagoon, extending from the existing pier and running along the course of the foreshore, as well as the removal of existing concrete walkways
TM is proposing the construction of a pier within the Blue Lagoon, extending from the existing pier and running along the course of the foreshore, as well as the removal of existing concrete walkways

The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage is holding its ground against renewed attempts by Transport Malta to construct a 136m-long pier at the Blue Lagoon first proposed but than dropped by the Gozo Ministry two years ago.

TM is proposing the construction of a pier within the Blue Lagoon, extending from the existing pier and running along the course of the foreshore, as well as the removal of existing concrete walkways.

“It inevitable that such structures will have a negative and extensive impact on iconic views of high landscape value,” the SCH warned while lamenting the absence of photomontages.

While the SCH is “not averse to the proposed removal of existing concrete walkways”, it made it clear that it “objects strongly” the construction of the pier “which should be refused”.

The Superintendence also reminded TM  that the proposed development “is almost identical” to that previously proposed by the Gozo Ministry in 2018  to which both the Superintendence and the Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee had strongly objected.

The plans were dropped last year from an application presented by the Gozo Ministry in 2018 which also foresaw the repaving of the road leading to the proposed pier.

When similar plans were presented two years ago, the Planning Authority’s cultural heritage advisory committee which is chaired by heritage superintendent Joe Magro Conti had already warned that the extended pier “will completely destroy the natural foreshore of the picturesque Blue Lagoon.”

Birdlife calls for carrying capacity study

Reacting to the latest proposal Birdlife Malta has also warned that the proposed pier may result in  an increased number of visitors to an already clogged area which suffers immensely from a lack of visitor management to Comino Island.

In view of this Birdlife has proposed a carrying capacity study to determine the number of visitors to be allowed in Comino.

“The size, orientation and capacity of the pier should be regulated accordingly”.

Moreover the pier should not introduce new light sources to the area – such as through regular boat parties during sensitive periods for bird colonies, or through unregulated overnight stays of vessels.

Waste collection facilities at the pier and around should also appropriately provided and managed to avoid attracting rodents which represent an existential threat to the bird colonies.

Aim is to remove makeshift concrete paths - TM

TM claims the pier would address the shortfall of mooring facilities in the Blue Lagoon. “The high number of visitors results in heavy boat traffic as these are ferrying passengers to and from the Blue Lagoon.”

The extended wooden-decked pier will rest on piles embedded in the seabed. TM says the pier will also eliminate makeshift concrete paths.

“Large ferry boats currently disembark passengers along this stretch of the coast, and passengers then access the bay via the said structures which are a health and safety hazard, especially for the mobility impaired.”

TM  justified the pier as a way to improve passenger safety by providing a level surface to access the ferries, apart from removing the concrete passages and restoring the shoreline to its original state.

But the pier is also expected to have negative environmental impacts. TM’s project development statement warns that the artificial structure along the otherwise natural coastline will be visible in views of the Blue Lagoon from the higher grounds around the site.

And since the pier will facilitate the mooring of larger ferries, it introduces the risk of having large vessels that will further disturb the views of the Blue Lagoon inlet, apart from increased numbers of visitors that disturb the protected or sensitive Natura 2000 habitats and species.

EIA consultants AIS have proposed a capping for boats of various sizes to ensure the inlet is not over-saturated with mooring boats.

The proposed use of a jack-up barge during works for the new pier will further extend the footprint of the damage on the seabed. The 655sq.m deck area will shadow the marine life underneath.

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