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Church commission calls on government to think twice before giving go-ahead to project on ODZ land

The Church’s Environment Commission has encouraged the authorities to think twice before giving the green light to projects such as that proposed for the building of at least two hotels and a promenade on the south eastern coast.

In a statement this afternoon the commission also urged the authorities to take into account the heavy price the people would have to pay if the land in question ended up being economically beneficial only to a few people.

It noted that Malta never experienced any economic crisis whenever common sense prevailed and such projects did not materialise. It referred to two papers it issued under different administrations where it warned that if the country persisted in finding ways and means to justify construction on land which was outside development zone, it would continue to suffer irreparable damage to the natural environment with all the repercussions on social and economic development.

The commission said it was surprised that one of the reasons put forward to justify the project was that this land was disturbed.

“Should one accept this line of thinking, one would expect whoever has the sustainable development of the locality at heart, and is really aware of what this involves, to propose the ecological restoration of the area including the rehabilitation of the Jerma Palace Hotel,” it said.

It posed a series of questions including which study, if any, was underpinning the proposal, which criteria were used to define this stretch of land as of little value, which social analysis or economic projections were carried out and how did the project fit into the proposed national land-use strategy.

It also asked if there was risk of heading towards a disjointed planning process, whether projects of this size and type should be in line with a properly-drafted national strategy, if such project fit into the national tourism policy, whether it was desirable and if it was in line with plans intended to promote rural tourism.

The commission said that the fact that this project did not feature in any development plan, and that the Privatisation Unit seemed to be taking an important lead in it, might give the impression that developers’ interests overrode the need for a strategic direction for land-use planning in the country.

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