More than a year after 24 sites were proposed for public domain status, authorities are still assessing ownership issues and it remains unclear when the sites may be formally granted protection.

In July 2017, the Planning Authority published a list of sites – which included Manoel Island, Wied Garnaw, Ta’ Ċenċ, Ħondoq ir-Rummien and several others – to be considered for protection under the Public Domain Act, introduced the previous year.

The law imposes a burden on the State to protect public domain sites for future generations, safeguarding against unsustainable development, commercialisation and environmental destruction.

The 24 sites published by the PA last year were subjected to public consultation, which wrapped up in August 2017, and then included in an annual report submitted to Parliament for consideration.

However, when asked for an update a year on, a PA spokesman said the process was still ongoing.

“Following the decision by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment and Development in February 2018 which directed the PA to collate up-to-date information, the Lands Authority embarked on an exercise that examines the ownership status of government property which the proposed site. This exercise is currently ongoing,” the spokesman said.

Foot-dragging and reluctance

He added that submissions for the 2018 edition of the annual report – which is set to include Wied Għomor after this was proposed by environment minister José Herrera – were currently “under consideration”.

It is not clear which sites have been submitted for consideration in the new report.

READ: What will public domain protection mean for earmarked sites?

Last week, eNGO Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar took the government to task over its “foot-dragging and reluctance” to grant Wied Għomor public domain status, amid a barrage of development applications in the ecologically-important valley.

“While massive projects which lead to intensification of urban density are rushed through in a matter of months, a measure to save an urban lung between St Julian’s and San Ġwann is put on a permanent backburner,” FAA said.

At first, Wied Għomor was meant to be considered with the rest of the sites submitted in 2017, but had to be delayed as the environment ministry’s submission was received after the deadline.

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