Walk Leader: Gunter
Photos Courtesy of Alfred Camilleri.
The development at Bahrija.
Ramblers take Bahrija development case to court
The Ramblers Association has filed a judicial protest against Mepa calling on it to stop work on Victor Scerri's property in Bahrija. It also warned of further action should the Authority fail to take decisive action.
In their protest, the Ramblers argued that the Bahrija site enjoyed the highest possible level of protection, yet over the years four building permits had been issued for it. The fourth was revoked by Mepa last August.
The Ramblers insisted that the first two permits were no longer valid because five years had elapsed since they were issued, and the third permit did not allow any building works, because it was only an amendment to a clause of the second permit regarding limitations on demolition.
The fact that the third permit had been issued to amend the second did not mean an extension of the validity of the second permit, the Ramblers' Association said. Mepa, therefore, should not allow further work on the site.
The Ramblers also claimed that the building works were violating the restoration method statement and the development plans were lacking important details, such as the location of the cistern, which was to be built outside the footprint of the proposed development.
While the developer's site plans showed the site to be flat, there was actually a significant gradient, the Ramblers said. This fact had been pointed out in June last year by the Authority's own head of enforcement, who had said the applicant should submit an application for an amendment and stop works in the meantime, But even this advice was ignored.
The Association called on Mepa to immediately stop the works and revoke the third permit to avoid further misunderstandings.
Joseph V. Grech (14 hours, 50 minutes ago)
Ramblers are doing the right thing. They should consider putting this case in foreign newspapers and (if possible) objecting with the E.U. This case shows how inefficient Mepa is. Prime minister Gonzi's inaction is scandalous. As for the contribution by George Cutajar , implying that such a scandalous ''development'' is OK simply because it has a ''valid Mepa permit'' does not convince: we all know how many illogical and harmful permits were obtained over the years. It is such a pity that Victor Scerri decided to build a residence at this precise spot! Simply barbaric!
Joseph Calleja (19 hours, 49 minutes ago)
In all fairness, I think that since there is a judicial protest against Mepa calling on it to stop work on Victor Scerri's property in Bahrija, the court is obliged to stop all work at this property till the court decides what is right or wrong. This should have been done a long time ago, ever since the first protest was made. Dr Scerri and The NGO have to abide by the court's decision, in the meantime stop the work and wait for the courts outcome.
Charles J. Buttigieg (20 hours, 15 minutes ago)
@ G.PisaniI don't know what Joseph Muscat has in his mind but if the accusations of illegality are founded and ignored by the property owner with the blessing of Mepa and the Government,then the new administration would be an accessory to the illegal act if it does nothing about it.
George Cutajar (20 hours, 19 minutes ago)
The Ramblers seem to ramble on and on labouring under the impression that they will stop this development or get MEPA to stop it. The works are being carried out under a valid MEPA and any objections to it should have been filed many moons ago - that is when the application was filed. I think it is about time that we put our hands on our heart and be honest with oneself - don't we all wish that Victor Scerri's land, permit and all belonged to us. And if that was so would we not be doing the same? The Rambler's seem to put forward a totalitarian concept of land ownership but that is not on in this day and age. Do they expect to ramble on private land if this happens to be i the countryside and privately owned? Anyway I am convinced that once Victor Scerri's development is finished there will be no scars left on the land and all will be rehabilitated.
G.Pisani (22 hours, 10 minutes ago)
Victor Scerri should hurry up his works before the elections came up as I think Joseph Muscat is ready with his bulldozer to take this thing down once he is PM.
J Brownie (22 hours, 14 minutes ago)
What a scar in this pristine patch - my heart cries at our inability to value what really matters not for the distruction per se . All Europe is racing to conserve its natural habitat and we are hell-bent to destruct the little we have – we are simply impoverishing ourselves
John M. Grima (22 hours, 44 minutes ago)
What a shame! Of all the rocky, wasteland areas of Bahrija, why would anyone be PERMITTED to build a modern dwelling in such a beautiful, fertile, pristine area? OK this new building IS replacing another. However, the previous dwelling was a farm house, with one used bedroom/kitcheon upstars and the downstairs three rooms were used to house a cow, a mule and the other used for hay. The Government should purchase the land from the Scerri family and keep it for farming. After all, this particular area has been used for farming for hundreds and hundreds of years.
Anthony Mizzi (22 hours, 52 minutes ago)
Well done Ramblers Thanks to you, future Maltese generations may enjoy the last remaining countryside. You are just doing what the country's administration with its law enforcing powers is failing continuously to do. One just cannot blame MEPA anymore even if the blame is being shifted by the Gonzi administration to the Monster that was in turn created by Gonzi and the P.N. in Governement. MEPA is just like a hand puppet in a Punch and Judy show and we all know who the PUPETEER is even if we only see the puppets he manipulates. Doesn't one ever feel a twinge when he was elected with billboards full of green pastures?
J. Borg (22 hours, 59 minutes ago)
How much is MEPA costing the taxpayer? Taxpayers should reduce the tax they pay - and support NGOs instead in all the legal expenses and more it is incurring. Dr. Gonzi - since you are PM and responsible for MEPA - wake up pls! Dr. Muscat - sweet dreams - any chance of some effective pressure - to save this unique location!
J.Bonnici (23 hours, 2 minutes ago)
Keep up the pressure Ramblers. Sooner or later the government will have to do something to save face.
M Saliba (23 hours, 9 minutes ago)
How could it be possible that the permits were issued? Can Mepa justify its position? Who was the architect who applied for the permits?
savior cordina (1 day ago)
This association should have the backing of all maltese of good will for doing the work of mepa which is strong with the weak and weak with the strong.
lgalea (1 day ago)
3.Have a look at1. Case C-226/082. Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 (OJ L 206, p. 7), as amended by Council Directive 2006/105/EC of 20 November 2006 (OJ L 363, p. 368).
lgalea (1 day ago)
2.and definition of sites to be proposed to the Commission as SCIs without jeopardising the achievement of the objective of ecological interest at EU level. In the Commission v Ireland ruling (C-427/07), the ECJ recalled that, at the time of classification of a site in a protected area, a member state cannot take into account economic requirements to the extent that they respond to imperative reasons of overriding public interest, neither can it enact national rules, which would generally render it exempt from the obligation to carry out an impact assessment on the site of management projects that are not directly linked to, or necessary for, management of the site but are likely to affect it in a “significant manner” (Greenpeace France and Others ruling, C-6/99). More specifically, in the Commission v Luxembourg ruling (C-174/01), the ECJ considered that member states are obliged to provide, in their national law, adequate modalities for information on compensatory measures adopted in the event of realizing a project that could pose a risk to the environment, in order to allow the Commission to examine whether the said measures are likely to guarantee global coherence of Natura 2000.
lgalea (1 day ago)
In 2004, the ECJ considered that a plan or project likely to affect a protected site in a significant manner may not be authorized without prior assessment of its environmental impact. It decided that as the Habitats Directive does not define the notions of ‘plan’ and ‘project’, it is appropriate to refer to Directive 85/337/EEC on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment with a view to clarifying the notion of ‘plan’ or ‘project’ (Waddenvereniging and Vogelbeschermingsvereniging ruling, C 127/02 and Dragaggi and Others ruling, C 117/03).In 2006, the ECJ recalled that, from the moment a site is included in a national list transmitted to the Commission with a view to its inclusion in the SCI list, it must be exempt from any intervention likely to compromise its ecological nature (Bund Naturschutz in Bayern and Others ruling, C 244/05). Furthermore, in its Linster ruling (C-287/98), The ECJ specified that the Habitats Directive (92/43 at the time) must be interpreted in the sense that a member state cannot take into account economic, social and cultural requirements, as well as regional and local characteristics, at the time of the selection
J Magro (1 day, 1 hour ago)
When is the book about this Saga coming out?
Charles J. Buttigieg (1 day, 1 hour ago)
The building looks like a nuclear shelter to me.
P.Cassar (1 day, 1 hour ago)
BUT IS IT REALLY POSSIBLE TO SEE THIS RAPE OF ONE OF THE FEW NATURAL VALLEYS AND REMAIN AT PEACE WITH ONESELF.WORSE THAN THIS YOU FIND SOME (ESPECIALLY PN BLOGGERS) WHO AGREE WITH MEPA AND ALL THIS DESTRUCTION . POOR MALTA.
From the Times of Saturday, 23rd January 2010
The Ramblers' Association yesterday alleged that clay excavated and removed from the Baħrija site belonging to former Nationalist Party president Victor Scerri was illegally dumped on public land.
Journalists were taken to a site in Landrijiet, limits of Baħrija, where a large swathe of garigue area was smoothed over with clay allegedly deposited there by trucks coming from Dr Scerri's site. Dr Scerri's architect, Robert Musumeci, said the allegations were news to him. "I am unaware of any illegality to this effect," he said when contacted.
Ramblers' Association president Lino Bugeja and secretary Alex Vella said they and two other unnamed witnesses had followed the trucks to the site and estimated that about 400 cubic metres of clay were deposited there.
The site is in an area identified by government for the construction of wind energy turbines.
Mr Bugeja said the excavation of clay and its removal from the Baħrija site went against the Malta Environment and Planning Authority's policies and called on the authority to stop the works.
"We want to save this site from further destruction because we fear that this construction would set a precedent for other development in the area," Mr Bugeja said, insisting a Natura 2000 site had to be accorded the highest level of protection.
He insisted that Mepa seemed to be unaware of the amount of excavation that took place on the site because in the original plans submitted by Dr Scerri's architect no reference was made to the site's varying levels.
Mr Musumeci was unfazed by this accusation. "So far, works have been carried out according to a valid permit," he said.
The latest allegations are a continuation of the long-drawn saga, which erupted on the eve of the European Parliament elections last year.
When asked, Mr Bugeja denied the association's actions amounted to a crusade against Dr Scerri. "We have nothing against Dr Scerri. All we are interested in is protecting the environment for us and future generations," he said.
Dr Scerri's construction, a farmhouse, is covered byMepa permits. The development is situated at the bottom of the valley, which is a designated Natura 2000 site.
In August last year, Mepa had revoked the last permit issued to Dr Scerri for an extension after it was discovered that an environmental screening process was ignored.
However, the other permits for the reconstruction of a farmhouse remained in place.
Despite the evident damage being done to the pristine Bahrija valley, works are still being carried out by the owner (see attached pictures).
As a reminder, applicant Victor Scerri, in the name of his wife Ms Marthese Said, filed four applications, each one more audacious than the previous one:
PA 05846 /2004
All applications were recommended for refusal by the Planning Directorate, as they all run counter to numerous provisions of the Structure Plan and other regulations, policies and guidelines. All recommendations for refusal were overturned by the DCC (Development Control Commission) and permits were issued for each one. However, after protests by ENGOs, the last permit was overturned by the MEPA board in August 2009, invoking Article 39A of the Development Planning Act.
RAM still believes that all four permits should have been withdrawn, and not just the last one. In any case, RAM believes that the 2002 PA permit, issued in January 2003, is long past its five-year validity period, and had therefore expired long before the works started. Furthermore the 2004 application did not ask for an extension of the 2003 permit, but simply “to delete Condition 3 in order to confirm with condition 1 in PA 6321/02”. This has also been brought to the attention of the MEPA chairman.
In view of the above, RAM is again calling on the PM, as the minister responsible for MEPA, and as the head of the current government, to use whatever jurisdiction he has over MEPA to stop the works forthwith.
It RAM’s view, this government is being totally unscrupulous in allowing this development in such an area, clearly in breach of innumerable regulations, policies and guidelines, under the guise that MEPA is an independent authority.
Report and Photos by Alfred Camileri
Only walk leader Gunter and seven Ramblers turned up for this walk. A heavy downpour just before the meeting time probably discouraged other ramblers from joining the walk. The
afternoon started at the Domenicans' church where we had a guided tour of the Madonna ta' l-Ghar sanctuary. The weather by the end of this visit was inviting and we started on our way towards Zebbug, shedding our raincoats.
On the outskirts of Zebbug we turned back towards Rabat through country lanes. However, on the last stretch (with about 20 minutes to go) of the walk the weather turned sour
and heavy rainfall and thunders gave a new twist to our walk. Literally we had to wade uphill to return to our starting point in Rabat. All in all a wonderful all weather experience!!!
Walk leader: Gunter
Duration of walk: 2.5 hours
Upstream to Rabat
Il-Madonna ta' L-Ghar
High Wall near Zebbug
The brave seven + one!
In an open letter, addressed among others to the Prime Minister and to Mr. Austin Walker, MEPA chairman, the Ramblers’ Association (RAM) have reminded the public that in June 2005 Mr. George Pullicino, then Minister responsible for MEPA, issued a statement declaring that “up to now not even an outline application for development has been submitted to MEPA” for the Bahrija area, when, it later transpired that in fact, in the Special Area of Conservation of Bahrija, MEPA had already issued development permits to Ms Marthese Said (Victor Scerri’s wife).
RAM therefore argue that the Hon. Minister either never sought information from, or else was given incorrect information by, MEPA. Otherwise one would have to conclude that the Hon Minister was knowingly concealing these applications, and thereby making a false declaration, thus misleading all those who care about our natural environment and preventing their taking action. These facts, RAM felt, warrant the withdrawal of all the aforesaid permits.
In a reaction to RAM’s letter, Mr. Pullicino's ministry said that his statement was being misrepresented, as he was then referring to alleged “large-scale developments such as a 5-star hotel or a golf course in the area, not simply to any development” (quoted from di-ve.com). They did not mention whether or not the Minister had sought information from MEPA before writing or whether he had been given wrong information. And they did not mention whether or not he was aware of Mrs Said’s three applications (2000, 2002 and 2004).
One therefore can easily understand why this reaction did not come from the Minister personally but from officers of his Ministry. What minister can keep an honest face while making this kind of public statement about the most protected site on the island?
RAM’s communication did not allow him the luxury of silence; the bold assurance he had given did not leave him a leg to stand on and he had no easy answer. But neither did one expect the shallow and shameless answer his ministry has come up with. It puts into question not just the Minister’s but the whole government’s honesty, integrity and morality.
Let Minister Pullicino read again what he said: “As the minister responsible for planning and as a Maltese citizen, I am confident that the planning system is sufficiently robust to provide important countryside areas such as Bahrija and Fomm ir-Rih adequate protection from insensitive development.”
Does he honestly consider Dr Scerri’s project a “sensitive” one to this highly protected area? Can the government and its planning system now be trusted to provide ‘any’ protection to countryside areas which the EU itself has labeled as untouchable? When the preacher does not practice what he preaches, what faith can survive?
In the meantime, as can be seen in the attached photos, work on the Bahrija site is still proceeding, wreaking havoc on this natural gem. It is totally unconscionable that the government is still allowing this in-your-face development, in breach of innumerable regulations, policies and guidelines, under the guise that the MEPA is an independent authority.
Some photos from today's walk, courtesy of Alfred Camilleri.
Walk Leader: Gunter
Going down to Ghar Hasan