Updated 8.15am with Ramblers' statement

The government has no plans to waive the right of public passage to Fomm ir-Riħ bay, Times of Malta can confirm.

On Wednesday, Ramblers Malta revealed that the government enjoys perpetual right and access to the foreshore and the sea at Fomm ir-Riħ, publishing an excerpt of a 1983 public deed between the landowners and the government to that effect.

Access to the secluded bay is through privately-owned land and was recently blocked by a metal barrier. The barrier was temporarily removed after widespread anger.

It has now emerged the government was aware of the deed and is using it as the basis for discussions with the owner of the land, Sandro Chetcuti, the president of the Malta Developers Association.

According to a spokesperson for the environment ministry, the government “has no intention to relinquish this right”.

This suggests the government will be responsible to ensure access to the bay is not blocked again and that the public can freely walk to the foreshore.

Architect's report notes dangers

Chetcuti has said he is willing to allow public access to the bay through his land and insisted through his lawyer that access was closed off because the area is not safe to walk through.

If anyone were to get hurt while walking through his land, it will make him liable to damages, he has said. 

A report drafted by architect Alex Torpiano and which was commissioned by Chetcuti identifies two types of risk at the site.

One is that the passageway is “steep and slippery… as well as narrow”.

“It presents a high risk for people navigating the passageway, particularly (but not only) with fading light conditions. It is important that either access through the passageway is prevented or the edge of the passageway be marked properly, preferably with a form of railing,” Torpiano said in the report.

A similar risk was identified at the edge of the upper level, “characterised by cracks in the ground as the edge is eroded away by the sea spray erosion below”.

Torpiano also highlighted “a different type of risk” at beach level, which, he said,  can be affected by falling material from the rock levels above.

He suggested keeping the public a couple of metres away so that any falling rock pieces will not injure anybody.

Landowner agreed to leave passage open - Ramblers

On Friday Ramblers said it was in talks with the government and landowner over public access to the foreshore and that the latter had agreed to leave the passageway open. 

The association said in a statement Chetcuti "has stated that it is his wish for Fomm ir-Riħ Bay to remain accessible to the public".

It added that since the partial collapse of clay slopes in August of 2020 might have damaged the path appearing on the 1983 public deed, the association, landowner and the government will be "investigating this matter further and if necessary, identify a safer passage to lead down to the bay".

"In the meantime, the landowner has agreed to not apply for another gate, and will be leaving the cliffside passage open as a gesture of goodwill towards the association and the community in general."

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