A 19-year-old proposal to build a tourist and residential village in Gozo’s coastal Ħondoq area will remain a “monster of a project, hanging over our heads”, unless the development status of the area is reversed.
Qala mayor Paul Buttigieg is appealing for the authorities to give the area protected Outside Development Zone status to stop fresh development applications from being submitted in the future.
The coastal area in Gozo was “surreptitiously” redesignated to “tourism and marine-related use” in the 2006 Local Plans, without public consultation, Buttigieg said.
He wants this move reversed, arguing that even if the plans for a tourist and residential village are refused, the applicant could just submit another application.
“If they changed the policy for Ħondoq once, they could change it again,” he said.
A similar appeal to the PA was made in 2013, but the mayor said it was ignored. He now plans to make a formal request to Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia.
Describing it as “a monster of a project hanging over our heads”, he said the application was still pending a decision from the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal and the case was still not closed two decades later.
Having won an appeal in court, the case went “back to square one” to the new PA board, which needs to carry out a new site inspection, scheduled for later this month.
“If it is ever approved, we will have another village and we can say goodbye to enjoying the area as we do now,” he said.
Covering over 68,000 square metres, Buttigieg said the cost of the land, bought under condition of a permit in 1988, would be covered with the sale of one single unit.
Meanwhile, throughout the Ħondoq saga, the Qala council has spent some €20,000 on architects, lawyers, consultants and PA fees to analyse the project and to make a case against the application in its ongoing battle.
While acknowledging that not much could be done when applications were submitted for development zones and within legal parameters, in cases where the law was not adhered to, especially for ODZ projects, Buttigieg said the council always took the necessary action.
Pointing out that speculators looked at Qala’s beauty only in terms of “how much money they could make”, he called on everyone – and not just mayors – to “keep up the pressure to save our beautiful Gozo”.
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