Published on the Times of Malta on 3rd May, 2013 by Juan Ameen.
The Environment Tribunal yesterday threw out an appeal filed by the Ħondoq ir-Rummien developers, refusing to accept a set of fresh plans that eliminate the marina and replace it with a swimming lagoon.
The developers of the €120 million project filed the appeal in December 2011 after receiving a letter from the planning authority saying the new plans had to be submitted in a new and separate application. This was because the new footprint went beyond the site area listed in the current application.
The original proposal was to build a five-star hotel, 285 flats and villas, 731 underground parking spaces, 10 shops, five restaurants and a 150-boat marina. Developers Gozo Prestige then filed new plans that scrap the marina and replace it with a swimming lagoon.
However, they were informed by the planning authority in a letter that this was a “material change” altering the nature of the existing application, and that the processing of the existing application had nearly been finalised.
In its arguments before the tribunal, the planning authority said the applicant could not file an appeal at this stage over correspondence from the authority. An appeal could only be filed on a decision by the planning authority board.
The highly controversial project has been slammed by environmental groups and by the planning authority’s environment unit that had described it as “objectionable” while calling on the authority’s board to refuse it. The Qala local council is also against the project.
Paul Buttiġieġ of Moviment Ħarsien Ħondoq was yesterday elated at the decision. “I’m happy that after 11 years of hard work it looks like all the effort we put into it with other voluntary groups paid off,” he said.
The group hoped the planning report would be soon be finalised for a final decision to be taken.
“All the reports have recommended the refusal of the project – including the environment department, Transport Malta and the Church Environment Commission,” he said.
The environment group and the Qala council are calling for the Ħondoq area to be converted into a national park run by the council and rehabilitated into an open space for all, as originally earmarked in the area’s local plans.