Updated 12.25pm, adds developer's reply

Environmental organisations are requesting that Hili Ventures be transparent with the public about the plan for a new hotel and bungalows complex on Comino.

They are urging the public to object to the “monstrous plan for Comino” that will see irreparable damage to the natural environment and the “urbanisation by stealth” of Santa Marija Bay.

Seven NGOs referred to a factsheet issued by Hili Ventures claiming that the redevelopment will see a reduction of overall footprint for their proposed plans.

Supplied by the NGOs.Supplied by the NGOs.

“This claim masks the fact that the current site is made up of buildings that take a small proportion of the site, while the rest consists of eight tennis courts, a volleyball court, trees and natural landscape.

“The new plans show a significant increase of built-up area for both the hotel - with an increase of 1,394m2 - and a massive increase of 2,936m2 for the bungalows at Santa Marija Bay.

“These plans clearly show an increase of gross floor area of 43.5%. Although Hili have since reduced the number of bungalows from 21 to 19, this will still result in a much higher building density for the site,” they said.

Supplied by the NGOs.Supplied by the NGOs.

The NGOs also referred to claims by Hili Ventures that the proposed redevelopment will be sustainable and respect Comino Natura 2000 management plans.

“NGOs again slam the developer for shameless greenwashing of the scheme as it fails to remind the public that 380 protected, mature trees will be removed with major impact for the environment and that the influx of heavy equipment, construction materials, workforce, and increased human disturbance from the hotel’s operation would cause massive environmental impact.

“The most sustainable development for Comino is no development at all,” they insisted.

The NGOs said they are extremely concerned by the creation of a “Comino Village” and said Hili is trying to hide the reality of their scheme for Santa Marija bungalows, which the developer routinely refers to  as “serviced bungalows”.

While the original bungalows were rented for temporary occupation, the Environment Impact Assessment submitted by the developer makes it plain that Comino would end up with a permanent population on the island by stating: “the serviced bungalows, that form an integral part of the complex, will be for sale, and prospective owners can opt to put their property in a rental pool, serviced by the hotel,” the NGOs noted.

“It is shocking that such a lack of transparency can be entertained for a project that could have a massively negative impact for Comino, the last unspoiled area in our country. 

“The public should take the opportunity to express their opposition towards this proposed development.

“Objections to this development application (PA/4777/20) can be submitted to the Planning Authority by Monday here.”

The statement was signed by BirdLife Malta, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Moviment Graffitti, Nature Trust Malta - FEE, and Ramblers’ Association of Malta.

Developer insists NGOs are quoting wrong figures

In a statement, Hili said the figures quoted by the NGOs are outdated and do not reflect the plans currently being considered by the PA.

It said that, as is normal in such projects, the plans have gone through several iterations, following stakeholder consultation.

“Before accusing anyone of misleading the public, it is vital that the NGOs make sure they are quoting correct and updated figures.”

The current proposal, Hili insisted, reduces the built footprint by 5,122m2 and will accommodate fewer guests, creating an overall reduction in intensity.

The serviced bungalows, it said, “are not and will not be for sale”. They will be operated as one single touristic resort by the hotel operator.

Supplied by the developer.Supplied by the developer.

The NGOs later insisted that the superimposed plans they provided are made using the latest valid data available at the PA.

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