Agritourism project proposed in Gozo

The development is set to include a shop, a winery, tourist accommodation, and other ancillary facilities as being proposed by Ta’ Mena Estates  in the Ta’ Srug area of Xaghra. 

Rural tourism provides a temporary ‘return’ to nature for affordable family holidays and recreation.
Rural tourism provides a temporary ‘return’ to nature for affordable family holidays and recreation.

An agritourism project along Marsalforn road in Xaghra, Gozo could become the first beneficiary of a policy allowing agri tourism development in the countryside.

The development is set to include a shop, a winery, tourist accommodation, and other ancillary facilities as being proposed by Ta’ Mena Estates and will be interspered over a 43,995 square metre site in the Ta’ Srug area of Xaghra (as declared in planning application presented to MEPA on 25 August),most of which will be retained for agricultural purposes.  But the owners have also declared owning 68 tumoli in the area, thus fulfilling the parameters set by the new policy on agritourism which limits the development of new agri tourism accomodations to holdings larger than 60 tumoli.

The proposed development is set to include 10 suites, each of which has a floorspace of around 50 square metres and a breakfast area (instead of an already existing room).  The development will even include a free range area for the Maltese black chicken, beekeeping facilities and  an olive press.

Through the new policy approved last year owners of agricultural land will be allowed to construct up to 10 rooms over a 400 square metres floor space.  But the policy explicitly states that such development can only take place on sites occupying 60 tumoli (67000 square meters). 

The approved policy states that any proposed building "shall accommodate 7 to 10 guest rooms with ancillary facilities which may include a swimming pool area" and that  "the building shall not exceed a total floor space of 400m2".

The new policy also allows developers to incorporate other facilities like boutique wineries, horse riding establishments and stables, swimming pools, olive oil production, bee keeping facilities, farm shops and other developments in the same area.

Ta’ Mena Estates is already involved in agritourism activities, organizing tours and wine and olive oil tasting sessions and BBQ nights on the estate.  As stated in the website it also provides accommodation in farmhouses and in an apartment in Marsalforn Bay.

The site where the agritourism is being proposed  has been subject to an enforcement notice since 2007 due to the illegal construction of room and structures and a gate.  In 2008 MEPA dismissed an application to sanction rooms, a BBQ oven, the removal of top soil, a concrete platform, and a timber gate. MEPA also rejected an application to sanction the excavation and dumping of screed in the area.  An application to construct a winery presented in 2005 was later withdrawn by the applicant.  

The applicant also has a pending application to demolish the existing retail shop and reconstruct it with a basement store.

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