The government and the Opposition should pass a resolution in Parliament once it reconvenes to change the country’s local plans and declare Ħondoq ir-Rummien public domain, Qala mayor Paul Buttigieg has said.
In a statement this morning, Buttigieg called on both major parties to fulfill the wishes of the vast majority of the public, and ensure that the bay remains free from development.
Plans for the construction of a luxury village, complete with a hotel and yacht marina have been in place for some time though the owners of the land still lack a permit to go ahead with the development.
“The wish of many Gozitans, Maltese and people that love our islands remains the same – protect Ħondoq from development and speculation,” Buttigieg said, insisting that the land should be enjoyed by the public “forever”.
He noted that both parties had stated that Ħondoq needed to be protected. “We are therefore requesting that these words be put into action.”
“No more delaying tactics, but the implementation of a plan to protect Ħondoq, and fulfill the wishes of thousands of people, including 85% of Qala residents who voted against the development of this jewel,” Buttigieg said.
“We are requesting that all parties go to Parliament and pass a resolution declaring Ħondoq public domain, with all the protection that goes with this status.”
He urged the country’s politicians to “go to Parliament and change the local plan, as they had done when they decided to increase property height limitations in Dingli or when they decided that Ta’ Qali can be used for commercial purposes with higher limitations”.
“Or like you did with Ħal Ferh, which has also become a residential zone,” he continued, adding that local plans should also be able to be changed for environmental and social reasons which the protection of Ħondoq was a perfect example of.
“Listen to our request. Even the European Courts have concluded that local plans can be changed without the need for compensation. Take this step so we can know which of you is listening to us and which of you genuinely have the environment at heart.”
Nationalist Party leader Bernard Grech has pledged that a government led by him would buy back the land, which the owners are reported to want €17 million for.
MaltaToday has reported that the land was acquired from the Dominican Order by the present landowners, who paid €23,000 for it in 1988, at a full sale price of €1.5 million should the company be awarded a permit for its development.
This begs the question as to what price the land would be bought back for, given that the owner’s €17 million valuation is based on the project as it is envisaged by the owners and which they presently have no permit for.
The 2006 local plans envisage considering “tourism and marine-related development” in the area, with no guarantees that an application for a mega-development will be approved.
Prime Minister Robert Abela has on his part rubbished Grech’s pledge calling it irresponsible given that he did not know how much the land cost.
Abela had also said that the area could not be shifted from the Outside Development Zone because landowners had acquired rights by virtue of the local plan, a claim that has been dismissed by legal experts.
What do you make of this request?