Fomm ir-Riħ owner Sandro Chetcuti: dangerous footpath must be safe for public access

Lawyer says Chetcuti intends allowing a safe and hazard-free passageway, whilst ensuring he is not held responsible for any mishap that could lead to criminal and civil proceedings

MDA president Sandro Chetcuti: says he does not want any liability for potential accidents from people crossing dangerous footpath
MDA president Sandro Chetcuti: says he does not want any liability for potential accidents from people crossing dangerous footpath

The president of the Malta Developers Association – Sandro Chetcuti – has defended a metal gate installed at the mouth of his estate at Fomm ir-Rih which has barred public access to the foreshore. 

Confirming ownership of the extensive estate, which until recently included the secluded Villa Delfino at the top of the Bahrija promontory, Chetcuti spoke to MaltaToday through his lawyer Michael Grech in a defence of the gate barring access to the picturesque bay. 

The metal gate was discovered by scuba clean-up activist Raniero Borg at the passageway leading towards the footpath that leads down to the bay, where a slope collapse recently made the bay further inaccessible. 

Grech said the passageway itself leading from the public road, was privately owned despite being open to the public. “The same signs set up by the owner have been vandalised and moreover, the gate was damaged by someone who tried to pull the same gate down,” his lawyer said. 

Grech insisted that the gate served to eliminate the danger created by the current state of the passageway, as well as to limit the responsibility he had as owner of the estate itself, for accidents incurred by people crossing through the passageway. 

“The owners reached their conclusions on the dangers posed by the current state of the passageway after obtaining expert advice which was later certified by a renowned architect and geologist,” the lawyer said. 

The 29 January 2021 report – that is, prepared this very week, by architect Alex Torpiano, the president of environmental organisation Din l-Art Helwa – concludes that the steep and narrow passageway down Triq Fomm ir-Riħ was “a high risk for people navigating the passageway, particularly (but not only) with fading light conditions.” 

The report, seen by MaltaToday, stated that it was “important that either access through the passageway is prevented, or the edge of the passage way be marked properly, preferably with a form of railing.” 

“The same type of risk exists if people walk too close to the edge of the upper level, particularly because the edge is characterised by cracks in the ground, as the edge is eroded away by the sea spray erosion below. These particular edges can fail without warning.” 

Torpiano recommended a barrier as well as a warning sign at the edges. Additionally, he warned against the risk at beach level due to falling material from the rock levels above. “In this case, the only mitigation measure that can be suggested is to delineate a line parallel to the edge of the rock face, say a couple of metres away, and to warn people not to access this area. In this way, any falling rock pieces will not injure anybody.” 

Chetcuti’s lawyer told MaltaToday that the video posted on social media in recent days had clearly shown the danger posed by the passageway, and that the dangers of the passageway were indicated in a sign affixed by the transport ministry itself, warning that the ground can break off without warning. 

“Whilst it is not the owners’ intention to preclude the public from reaching the foreshore, on the other hand it is likewise legitimate to avoid incidents which in turn could bring about legal responsibilities, Indeed, to date no authority has shown willingness to assume responsibility for any incident occurring at the site in question,” Grech said. 

He said Chetcuti’s intention was to allow a safe and hazard-free passageway, whilst ensuring he is not held responsible for any mishap that could lead to criminal and civil proceedings.  

The lawyer said talks had been started with the authorities to reach a solution that balances out public and private interests. 

“The public is being once again advised that the passageway should not be accessed and whoever ignores this message is doing so with full knowledge of the existing dangers… the property is private and it is expected that there will be no trespassing on the surrounding areas.”


In a reaction to the closure of the passageway, the Ramblers' Association remarked that the passage was intended to be used as an alternative access to Fomm ir-Riħ bay after landowners closed off the main passage. 

“While access through the cliffside passageway is not ideal, the association is insisting that this is not closed until the exercise between the landowner and the Government to identify an alternative access to the bay is concluded.”

The association said that any safety concerns can be addressed through appropriate signage and through the provisional opening of the road leading fro the top of the site down towards the bay.