Proposed construction of hotels at Zonqor coastline ‘violates law, shows lack of vision’

Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar expresses concern over a proposal to develop three brand new hotels between Zonqor Point and Smart City • Says government should focus on rehabilitating the former Jerma site

View from zonqor point where one of the hotels is being proposed
View from zonqor point where one of the hotels is being proposed

A proposal to build three hotels, ruining the beautiful Xghajra-Mwiegel-San Anard-Zonqor coastline by further cementification, is of grave concern, Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar said, adding that the government should instead be focusing on the ecological rehabilitation of the area.

“A hotel at Smart City could make sense, and a sensitive conversion of Fort Leonardo could be accepted as long as it respects the fort’s conservation status. However, more development on virgin land should not even be considered,” FAA coordinator Astrid Vella said.

A brief paper prepared by the government's privatisation unit is proposing three hotels on virgin land stretching from Smart City to Żonqor Point in the south of Malta. The development will also feature a promenade and a beach club, all built on public land outside development zones.

A government spokesperson told MaltaToday that the paper by the Privatisation Unit was simply an analysis of the situation in the Southern part of the island, “which has been neglected for a long time.”

But according to Vella, the fact that the Privatisation Unit put forward such a proposal showed that the authorities had no vision for integrated coastal planning for the whole island, or creativity to produce a different tourism product and strategy that would provide a diverse experience and real benefits for the local community.

“Malta’s decision makers have not realised that agricultural land and our garigue are not ‘empty spaces’ to be built upon but important public green spaces that are essential to the physical and mental health of the nation. Building these isolated hotels will require roads and services, therefore more soil will be sealed and less water absorbed into the aquifer,” Vella said.

FAA argued that the coastline belongs to the public both by law, and also by the Barcelona Convention where Malta had committed to “preserve coastal zones for the benefit of current and future generations;” and that “unnecessary concentration and urban sprawl should be avoided” and public access to the sea retained.

The environmental NGO argued that the proposed project follows a government policy to increase hotel heights all over Malta while no studies have been produced to justify the increased capacity in either case.

“For years there has been talk of improving the mediocrity at Bugibba. What has become of the committee set up under Charles Buhagiar with the remit of coming up with solutions for sub-standard accommodation there?” FAA asked.

It argued that instead of focusing on upgrading, “this government is following slash and burn policies to replace Bugibba by more development on virgin ODZ land”.

“While FAA appreciates the need to spread the benefits of tourism to the south, the priority should be the rehabilitation of abandoned sites like the Jerma Palace Hotel,” FAA said, adding that the proposals also violated the structure plan.

“Hotels are not permitted Out of Development Zone, therefore Government is proposing a double illegality lacking in long-term vision in order to enrich speculators abusively at the cost of the public health,” FAA said.

Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar supported by Friends of the Earth and Ramblers had organised a petition against the encroachment of public spaces and beaches which attracted over 2,000 signatures. The petition can be signed at: http://goo.gl/ioZqyF

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