Ta’ Mena’s agri-tourism project in Gozo approved

An agri-tourism project in Marsalforn Valley gets the planning green light with seven votes in favour and one against

Ta' Mena Estates is situated in the area known as Is-Sruġ in Marsalforn Valley
Ta' Mena Estates is situated in the area known as Is-Sruġ in Marsalforn Valley

Ta’ Mena Estates in Gozo will be transformed into an agri-tourism venture after the planning board approved the project on Thursday.

The project includes 384sq.m of new accommodation facilities in the area known as Is-Sruġ in Marsalforn Valley.

This is the second agri-tourism project in Gozo approved according to the rural policy of 2014, which is currently being revised.

The other project, which also included a swimming pool, was approved in Kerċem in 2018.

The Ta’ Mena project consists of 10 separate 30sq.m rooms, including an 84sq.m breakfast room.

It also includes a partly underground 250sq.m winery, a retail shop, an olive press and a petting farm with four sheds for 15 rabbits, 15 chickens, two sheep and two goats.

The development was approved by seven votes to one. Only NGO representative Annick Bonello voted against, citing the visual impact of the proposal and objections by the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage.

The rural policy approved in 2014 allows accommodation facilities on land holdings that are larger than 60 tumoli. It also allows other developments foreseen in the policy like wineries, animal enclosures and olive presses.

But a draft policy issued last year to reform the rural policy, no longer allows the development of new hotel accommodation facilities in the countryside.  

The project was proposed for approval by the case officer.

The Environment and Resources Authority had dropped objections to earlier plans after swimming pools were removed from the proposal and development was concentrated on part of the site.

But the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage had objected warning that the application as proposed would result in a proliferation of “non-purely agricultural structures,” which will inevitably have a negative impact on a relatively pristine rural and cultural landscape.   

The case officer recommended approval on condition that the accommodation facilities cannot be sold or transferred separately from the farming establishment.

The use and operation of the winery and olive press buildings are tied to the operation of the applicant’s vineyard holdings.

According to the case officer, the concerns of the SCH were addressed by relocating the proposed structures to the western part of the site where the terrain is at its lowest; and by efforts to locate facilities below ground level or within the difference in the site level contours such that most of the proposed buildings have one level visible from the streets.

The SCH was not consulted again on the finalised plans.

The project also foresees the demolition of a number of illegal structures and also the demolition of two legal rooms, which together occupy 85sq.m.