Din l-Art Helwa: new Ta’ Cenc villas ‘unacceptable’

Hotelier wants to build 15 villas on plateau near Mgarr ix-Xini at Ta’ Cenc in Gozo

Ta' Cenc overlooks Mgarr ix-Xini
Ta' Cenc overlooks Mgarr ix-Xini

Conservationists Din l-Art Ħelwa are urging the authorities to refuse the renewed proposal to build 15 villas on the plateau near Mgarr ix-Xini at Ta’ Cenc in Gozo, as well as an interpretation centre and other structures, which would lie outside the development zone.

“This proposal is completely unacceptable and should be thrown out by the Planning Authority,” Din l-Art Ħelwa said.

In 2006 a petition raised by Din l-Art Ħelwa against proposed development at Ta’ Cenc was signed by 10,000 persons. This was presented to Parliament by two MPs, one from the then Opposition benches, who is today home affairs minister, and one from the then government.

Ta’ Cenc is an area of high landscape value and of high ecological sensitivity, and is included in the EU Natura 2000 network of protected areas.

“The proposed development will create unacceptable levels of disturbance to the site, including from ancillary development such as extensions to roads, and increased lighting and traffic. The visuals submitted show that the development has a negative visual impact from most of the angles and approaches to the site,” Din l-Art Ħelwa said in its position paper.

The current owner bought the land at a price which reflected the zoning of the entire plateau as outside the development zone.

“By allowing the requested development the authorities would be allowing pure speculation. Such drastic alterations of zoning allow speculators to manipulate the valuation system to their sole benefit,” Din l-Art Ħelwa said.

It had been clarified by the government in a letter to the MEPA Board in 2006, that the Local Plan for the area limits the development in the lower part of the plateau to the existing development, and does not allow further development in this area. The proposal studied in this EIS will, however, intensify development significantly in the lower part of the plateau near Mgarr ix-Xini.

Development applications are to be decided by the MEPA board on laws and policies currently in force at the time when it takes its decision on the application. The proposal makes reference to the Structure Plan, which is however no longer in force and has been replaced by the Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development (SPED).

The SPED states that that the location of new residences should be guided within urban areas, and that rural areas must not be “exploited by uses which are not legitimate or necessary”.

“Granting permission to build private villas at Ta Cenc would continue the relentless destruction of the countryside. The SPED clearly states that further land take-up in rural areas should be considered as a last resort and only ‘where it is essential for the achievement of sustainable development.’ There is absolutely nothing sustainable about building more ODZ villas on the Ta’ Cenc peninsula,” Din l-Art Ħelwa said.