A gate blocking access to the idyllic Fomm ir-Riħ bay was placed there by developers' lobby president Sandro Chetcuti, who owns the massive tract of land behind it leading to the sea. 

The gate was removed last Friday following a public outcry, but the Environment Ministry has indicated that the removal is only temporary and that it will return once the landowner obtains a permit for it. 

Malta Today reported on Sunday that the land in question is owned by Malta Developers' President Sandro Chetcuti. Chetcuti declined to speak to Times of Malta directly and instead referred questions to his lawyer Michael Grech. 

Safety concerns

Grech said the metal gate, which blocked access to the bay, was installed because the area is private and the path leading down to the sea was in a dangerous state. 

Because the land is private, Grech said, Chetcuti could be held responsible if a person is injured there. 

The lawyer said a report has been commissioned and drawn up by architect Alex Torpiano. According to Grech, it outlines the dangers in the area and is being shared with the authorities as they discuss the way forward. The report has not been made public. 

Chetcuti, he said, does not want to block off access to the beach but also wants to ensure he is not responsible if someone is injured on the way there since the path is on his land. 

The issue is being discussed with the authorities though finding a solution might be complicated since the entire area is deemed dangerous, Grech said. That meant putting up structures to protect the public might also be difficult. 

Concerns about the picturesque site made headlines after conservationist Raniero Borg shared a video on social media showing the area cordoned off with access to the beach blocked by a large metal gate.

'Access must remain open' - Ramblers

Meanwhile, in a statement on Sunday, the Ramblers’ Association of Malta insisted that public access to Fomm ir-Riħ should remain open while the government and landowner worked out a solution.

The cliffside passageway was only to be used as an alternative path to access the bay after landowners had closed off the main passage leading down to the beach, the association said.  

“The public should not be prevented from accessing the site while any negotiations are ongoing, as from the association's experience these can drag out indefinitely,” the association said. 

Appropriate signage should be put up in the meantime to address “genuine
safety concerns" and authorities should also consider provisionally opening the road leading from the top of the site down to the bay, it said. 

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