Seven environmental NGOs insisted today that the Mepa Board must turn down an application by Enemalta to build an electricity sub-station in Marfa - serving people who built 'boathouses' without permits.

The board is due to decide on the application on January 6.

The NGOs are the Ramblers Association of Malta, Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Din L-Art Helwa, Malta Organic and Agriculture Movement, Nature Trust Malta, Friends of the Earth Malta and Birdlife Malta.

"Approving such an application would simply encourage more of the building abuse that Mepa claims it is trying to stamp out. As such, an approval of this application will go down in the annals of our history as one of the most irresponsible, illegal and unjust precedents that MEPA has ever set," the NGOs said.

"For a member of the European Union that prides itself on its sense of democracy and justice to allow prime land to be illegally seized, and subsequently have this occupation blessed by a government desperate for votes on the eve of not one but two elections, is a betrayal of every tax-paying citizen on these Islands," the NGOs said.

They said the area of 67,000 sq mt of land at Armier bay is illegally occupied by 800 illegal structures, "but if the squatters' political arm-twisting is successful, this will increase tremendously."

The NGOs explained that an agreement signed with the Nationalist government on the eve of the 2003 election could extend the existing 67,000 square meters to around 231,000 square meters or 230 tumuli of public land, against an annual rent of €350,000. The pledge was renewed by the leader of the Nationalist Party just before the 2008 elections when he committed himself to “consult with Mepa” on the pending applications. The squatters’ lobby has also made back-room agreements with the LP just before the last two national elections, the NGOs said.

In 2004, Armier Developments, the squatters’ company, submitted applications proposing the development of 1,589 rooms, five playgrounds and a bowls pitch, a minimarket, three restaurants, a two-storey garage, three community centres and a clinic in an area spanning Ramlet il-Qortin, Ta’ Macca u l-Armier, the Barriera tal-Ahrax quarry, Little Armier and the Torri l-Abjad zone.

Parts of these areas are supposedly protected as Areas of Ecological Importance (Habitat Directive), Special Protection Area (Birds Directive), Area of Ecological Importance/Site of Scientific Importance and Special Area of Conservation - International Importance.

"The existing squatters have in the past convinced Enemalta to supply electricity to their habitations. This was not enough – they have also convinced Enemalta to apply for a new substation in order to strengthen the supply to their 'boathouses', the NGOs said.  

The Mepa case officer has recommended refusal by the Mepa board on the basis that this substation would benefit illegal development in the area.

In his report he said: "there is no reason, from a planning point of view, as to why the substation should be permitted, considering how the proposed structure is aimed at providing services to beach rooms that are used as illegal holiday homes proposed to be demolished through the Structure Plan policies".

The Planning Directorate is therefore advising the MEPA board to turn down this application.

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