Gzira mayor insists MIDI is obliged to retreat

Gzira mayor Conrad Borg Manché welcomes MIDI’s retreat, insists public access is not a concession but a right

Conrad Borg Manche
Conrad Borg Manche

Welcoming MIDI’s decision to allow public access to the Manoel Island’s foreshore insisted that the company is contractually obliged to grant access.

On Tuesday, Manoel Island developer MIDI said that although it was not legally obliged to do so, it decided to open access “in view of the position taken by the government and public opinion.”

However, in a statement issued on Wednesday, Borg Manché took issue with the company’s claims and said that while the council embraces the fact that MIDI consortium “acceded” to its request, “we remain steady on our point that we are not in any way begging for a grant from MIDI as they are stating.”

“MIDI are contractually obliged to leave an access both after completion as per plans attached to the contract and during development as stipulated in the contract in namely article fifteen which is titled access during development,” he said.

Following a number of protests by Kamp Emergenza Ambjent activists, Borg Manché and Gzira residents, in which access was temporarily reclaimed, government has accused the company of violating the conditions under which the emphyteutical concession was granted.
In the protest, which was signed by the Attorney General, the Commissioner for Lands accused the company of breaching its obligations by “disturbing the public’s enjoyment of an area that is in the public domain.”

MIDI has maintained that the contract of emphyteusis did not provide a right to access over its property – insisting that the relevant clause was only intended to ensure access to the site.

But Borg Manché  insisted that articles 15.1 and 15.2 in the original concession clearly show that only the government can prohibit access by the public temporarily to areas of the property during development.

“This gives the public the right to access even areas delineated within the property for instance the area in front of the fortifications facing Valletta which is a public area according to the plan and the development/restoration in this area is completed,” he pointed out.

Borg Manché  added that MIDI are obliged to indicate to the government the areas of the property where development will take place to be enclosed for safety purposes and the company is “bound not to unduly interrupt essential services which includes access to parts also not included in the property namely the foreshore.”

Insisting that access to public areas does not hinder in any way the peaceful and vacant possession as stated in the contract since access will not effect the development stage, Borg Manché said “this makes complete sense, since MIDI has still to provide public roads and public facilities when the project is completed as indicated on drawing M07 annexed with the contract.”

He also said that public interest and the common good should prevail in these cases rather then going into a legal battle and looking into the technicalities of a contract when massive profits are made on previously publicly owned land.

Borg Manché said that according to the parliamentary debates in 1999 the intention of the whole project was the regeneration of the area for public use and enjoyment but the rights of the public have been breached for 16 years. 

“As a council we will shoulder responsibilities for the public areas as we do in all public areas within our locality when our jurisdiction is extended to cover also Manoel Island. This request has been unanimously agreed within the council and sent to the government for acceptance.”