The beautiful site at Fomm ir-Riħ is at the centre of two issues which we have at heart. The first is the right of safe access to the bay; the second is putting a stop to the abuse which this Natura 2000 site has been subjected to.
At present the public is forced to use an unsafe passage which, from the shelf cut in the rock, slopes abruptly and dangerously down to the bay. We pointed out to the Government Property Division (GPD) that the right of safe public access to the bay is guaranteed by a public deed of 1983, with an attached plan that shows a curved path leading smoothly and safely to the beach through the private land. We insisted that the path be cleared according to the plan. After dilly-dallying for a couple of years the GPD decided upon some sloppy work on the existing path which did nothing substantial to make accessibility safer. Unfortunately, it seems that the GPD is dragging its feet on this issue, and refusing to take decisive action in the public interest, safeguarding rather private interests.
Moreover, the owner of the land has been despoiling this Natura 2000 site for years now. In 2008 the owner applied with MEPA for the sanctioning of work done to the site without permission. This included hard landscaping and the breaking up of boulders, which are a naturally-occuring phenomenon at the site.
Whilst the sanctioning application was still pending, RAM reported that the owner was continuing with works on the site and MEPA dutifully dismissed the application. The developer appealed, and the appeal has dragged on for three full years now. During all these years, the disturbance to the site has continued unabated, meaning that the developer has managed to transform the site according to his fancy. In fact the property was listed for sale through the agent Sarah Grech at a price of 7 million euro, and is advertised as containing three farmhouses and private beaches. RAM provided evidence of these works to MEPA, requesting that the Authority inform the Appeals Board that illegalities were still going on with impunity. However, at the last hearing of the appeal, the applicant was told to put in a fresh application. To our surprise MEPA did not bring forward the evidence provided by RAM that works proceeded even during the three years that the Board was considering the appeal.
RAM has expressed its displeasure with MEPA at its failure to protect this site and is keeping the Environment Directorate of the EU abreast with developments.
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