Parliament’s Environment and Development Planning Committee has approved changes to the 2006 North West Local Plan Policy and the 2008 Ħal Ferħ Development Brief to allow residences to be built at the Ħal Ferħ complex in Golden Bay.

The site could, to date, only be used for tourism purposes.

Labour MP’s Joe Mizzi, Anton Refalo and Jean Claude Micallef voted in favour of the changes while PN MP’s David Thake and Kevin Cutajar voted against. 

The application was made by the Corinthia Group, which plans to build some 25 villas taking up a third of the area. Most of the site will still be used for tourism, the Planning Authority explained in a brief to the MPs. The mix will generate business in the form of high-quality tourism and create more jobs.

The development will still bound by other conditions set in the transfer of the site - namely that most of the floor space has to be used for tourism accommodation, that the total density cannot increase and that design parameters for the residential complex must remain holistic.

The project, the PA said, will not take up any additional land or rise higher than previous developments on site. The environmental impact on the site will remain the same. 

Members of Moviment Graffiti and Żminijietna: Voice of the Left told the parliamentary committee that land planning policy should not be arbitrarily changed to meet the requests of developers and that the uptake of ODZ land for the addition of high-end villas as residences did not represent a benefit to the community. 

Corinthia Group CEO Simon Naudi said that the group had no interest in breaching policies or conditions already in place and sought to maintain the environment in order to attract more tourism to the area. 

Environmental NGOs have criticised the change to allow residences to be built, calling it the “thin end of a wedge which will gradually see the whole site developed into a permanent residential settlement, with all the infrastructural impact that a permanent residential community generates”.

The plans also earned a rebuke from the Church's Commission for the Environment, who said the plans showed a lack of commitment to better and intelligent planning. 

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