Plans for Xemxija marina foresee berthing for 168 boats

Xemxija marina will cover an area of four large football grounds and would impact on protected seagrasses

Plans for the development of a 31,000sq.m marina in Xemxija have been presented by Harbour Management, a company owned by Pierre Balzan, who currently also manages the Mġarr marina in Gozo.

The planning application proposes mooring facilities for 168 boats and 18 jet-skis. Of these, 101 of the boats berthed in the area will be over 13m long, including seven with a length of over 24m, and 19 which will be 18-24m long.

The planning application was presented last March but details of the application were only published on the Planning Authority’s public information system in the past days.

The application refers to a concession granted by Transport Malta to Harbour Management and includes a rendition of the new marina.

But the concession invoked in the application was later revoked by the Public Contracts Review Board, in a decision taken on 8 July following a protest by the operators of the Beachaven establishment.

But this has not stopped the PA from processing the application, which is still in the initial screening stage. In a report sent on 29 July, the Environment and Resources Authority failed to outrightly object to the proposed marina, which will change the dynamics of the bay. But it warned that the proposed interventions will extend into the marine environment within a Natura 2000 site, which will be impacted by the laying of concrete sinkers and a heavy chain along the seabed.

In view of this ERA called for a benthic survey of the marine environment, to identify and map the sealed habitats, and locate the presence of protected or otherwise sensitive species, which can potentially be affected by the marina.

The report specifically refers to the presence of the protected Posidonia seagrasses in the area.

Plans to establish a yacht marina in Xemxija were originally announced in 2004. A Request for Proposals was issued in 2009, following permits sought from the Planning Authority. The then maritime authority, now forming part of Transport Malta, awarded the tender to Harbour Management Ltd.

But the concession was cancelled in 2011, with Harbour Management later contesting the decision in court. Court proceedings dragged for years until Harbour Management and Transport Malta reached an out-of-court settlement in November 2020, which once again granted the concession to Harbour Management.

In March, Transport Malta issued a directive for Xemxija Bay to be cleared of all boats so works could start on the marina.

Subsequently, the owners of Beachaven challenged Transport Malta’s decision, arguing the move was illegal as the concession had been cancelled. They said that according to public procurement rules, there should have been a fresh call for tenders.

The PA is also assessing an application to turn Malta’s most unsightly developments approved in the 1990s on the Xemxija coast – the Kaħlija Court – into a hotel. The application, submitted by Johann Said, foresees the change of use from a residential dwelling to a hotel, together with an 84sq.m canopy and an outside catering area.