Maligned agritourism will now have hotel amenities removed

Developer Rennie Scicluna has dream to go back to his agricultural roots

The Munxar cliffs enjoy grade three protection (Photos by Ray Attard)
The Munxar cliffs enjoy grade three protection (Photos by Ray Attard)

The owner of the Munxar fields in Marsaskala where an agritourism project has already earned the rebuke of environmentalists, has admitted that proposing a pool, beauty salon and a pontoon for cruise tenders gave off the impression that the project is more akin to a hotel than an agritourism facility.

Rennie Scicluna, who runs a falconry centre in Siggiewi, has committed himself to abide by MEPA’s rural policy to remove the hotel amenities of his 2,000 square metre agritourism complex – singling out the pool and the beauty salon as amenities which can be eliminated.

Scicluna has told MaltaToday that the idea of a pontoon in one of the scheduled coves – which ominously referred to a beach club in the project development statement – was meant to provide berthing space to “very rich people” visiting the agritourism facility by boat.

But Scicluna now insists he has no plans for a pontoon and neither does he have any plans to deny public access to any of the beaches. “At first I wanted to include whatever I thought suitable in my dream of a project connecting the sea and the land. But now I realise that I may have gone too far.”

He was unfazed by a declaration by MEPA’s director of planning, Christopher Borg, who described the proposal as a non-starter. “If we fine-tune the project to abide more strictly by the policy it can still be approved,” Scicluna said, defending the inclusion of conference rooms and farm shops as necessary to make the project viable.

He also insisted his project abides by the 2014 rural policy’s limits on 400 sq.m developments on buffer zones to areas of conservation, like the Munxar cliffs which enjoy grade three protection. “I am only proposing the development of less than 1,000 square metres over an 80,000 square metre area,” he says.

His complex will consist of eight guest rooms and a restaurant, a semi-basement wine bar, a health and fitness centre and a conference facility and a basement hosting an agro-food processing centre. The second component of the project is a 300 sq.m animal farm and underground store, and 1,260 sq.m of greenhouses. 

Scicluna is not new to controversy: he had started works on the now legally-established Siggiewi Falconry Centre without a permit.

Now he is keen to emphasise that he wants to abide by policies and laws.

He says his falconry centre is an example of an environmentally friendly development which enriches the rural environment.

But he admitted having developed part of his Munxar fields as a race-track in the past but insists that any illegalities on the site have been removed, even if the MEPA enforcement has not yet been lifted. Three pending enforcements remain on site, including one against structures built around an approved gate. 

“I am doing something for the country. I do not bury my talents in the ground. I use them… my dream is to go back to my roots as a farmer and dedicate myself to a project where people can see how food is grown,” Scicluna said, insisting that his project will be beneficial to the environment.

“If the project is approved agriculture will bloom again in the area, with tracts presently producing fodder, being used to grow crops.”

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