The Marsascala local council is opposing the construction of a yacht marina in the locality's bay and has called on Transport Malta to retract its call for proposals.
In an extraordinary council meeting held on Monday evening, the Labour-led council voted on a motion opposing TM's call for proposals to turn the bay, where over 500 boats are currently berthed, into a marina. It also condemned the authority's issuing of a call for proposals without first consulting with the local council and the community.
Additionally, the council's motion, tabled by PL councillor Ryan Portelli, called on TM to abandon the idea of creating a yacht marina concession in Marsascala.
Instead, the regulator should enter into discussion with the community about the reorganisation of berths in the bay, taking into consideration the village's traditions as well as the safeguarding of the natural environment. It also urged for a guarantee that no swimming zones would be taken up in subsequent projects.
Eight councillors voted in favor of the motion, while Labour councillor John Schembri abstained.
In a fiery meeting, every councillor barring Schembri expressed opposition to the idea of a marina project in the Marsascala bay, flagging concern over a its footprint, an uptake of swimming zones, its gentrifying effect and the impact of the marina's construction on the ecosystem of the bay.
Mayor does not exclude referendum
Addressing the meeting mayor Mario Calleja said TM had informed him that the preliminary design for the marina, which was included in a widely circulated pre-qualification document, was simply an artist’s impression and that consultation on the matter had already been carried out.
Calleja insisted that the community should be involved in any decision linked to the development of the bay and he did not exclude the possibility of holding a referendum for residents.
“I personally feel this proposal is not good for Marsascala and could potentially inflict a lot of damage.”
The councillors agreed in principle that the bay's mooring needed to be organised, while the breakwater strengthened, however, they felt that the scale of a commercial marina would go beyond the needs of boaters and choke the cultural norms.
16,000 square metres of land reclamation
TM's plans were made public last week after it issued an open call for tenders from those looking to develop the bay into a fully-fledged marina with pontoons and additional facilities.
A preliminary design included in the tender document showed that pontoons could possibly replace popular swimming spots often used for recreational activities.
It included rough plans for some 16,000 square metres of land reclamation spread over three spots in the bay. Parts of the seafloor would also be dredged to meet the appropriate depth required to host vessels of a certain size.
According to the tender document, the ideal project would provide berths for at least 700 vessels, with at least half of the marina set out for vessels that are between 13 and 23 metres long and a quarter for vessels that are between 24 and 36 metres long.
TM said on Sunday that the tendering process was still in its early stages.
The regulator added that once a shortlist of contenders was drawn up, more extensive studies would be launched, including consultation with locals.
The initial revelation led to public outcry and condemnation on social media, with residents telling Times of Malta that they thought preliminary plans were excessive and would eat away at the few remaining recreational spots that locals could enjoy freely.
The Nationalist Party also confirmed its opposition to the project, calling it “disproportionate and rushed”.
“The south of Malta requires investment for residents as well as tourism, but this should be done in harmony with the needs of the community and not behind everyone’s back as the government has done in Marsascala.” it had said in a statement.
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