[WATCH] 'Our hands are tied': Prime Minister says little can be done to reverse development zones

His comments come as Labour Qala mayor Paul Buttigieg appealed for the Ħondoq ir-Rummien area to be designated as an ODZ

Prime Minister Robert Abela
Prime Minister Robert Abela

Despite holding reservations on the 2006 Local Plans, Prime Minister Robert Abela says that his government’s hands are tied by these plans, and in turn cannot designated areas as outside-development zones (ODZ) at will.

“We are in a situation where the government’s hands are tied by the preceding government. If you were to ask me if I agree completely with the Local Plans as they were designed in 2006, I would tell you no, I have many reservations,” he said on Tuesday.

Abela explained that the local plans established certain rights for land and property owners. If government were to change the local plan as it pleases, those rights already enjoyed by property owners would have to change from the bottom up.

“The reality is that things don’t work like that,” he said.

The Prime Minister’s response was prompted by a question on the Qala mayor’s recent appeal to designate Ħondoq ir-Rummien as an ODZ.

Paul Buttigieg, the mayor in question, noted how the Ħondoq’s area status was changed in 2006 as a result of the local plans. It went from being an ODZ to a zone where touristic and marine-related developments may be permitted.

Adding insult to injury, a planning application submitted in 2002 would see part of the area turned into a luxury village, with a yacht marina and casinos.

In an interview with The Malta Independent, Buttigieg revealed how the Prime Minister told him that he can put his mind at rest on the Ħondoq issue, “but I will only put my mind at rest when it is turned back into an ODZ”.

Buttigieg added that while it was the Nationalist Party that changed the area’s status, the Labour Party has meanwhile been in government for eight years, and has not changed its status back.

Another issue worrying Qala and Nadur residents is that brought on by a business group registering vast swathes of land they claim is part of an ancient fief.

When asked about this, Abela said that legal amendments will be adopted soon in order to address this issue.

The Stagno Navarra family and their business associates registered over 27,500 square metres of land in Gozo in the name of the Benefice of Sant’ Antonio delli Navarra.