St Julian’s mayor Albert Buttigieg wants assurances that the hotel forking out the cost of replenishing Balluta Bay with sand will not want anything in return.
“While the Local Council was ignored and not informed of the dealings with a private commercial vested entity to replenish the beach, we need to be assured that the bay will not be privatised, in part or in full,” he said.
Mr Buttigieg was reacting to the announcement that Balluta Bay was one of three sandy beaches across the island that would be replenished with sand over the coming weeks.
St George’s Bay in Birżebbuġa (outside the Al Fresco restaurant), and Għar l-Aħmar Bay in Marsaxlokk, will also be ex-tended by some 25 metres using sand dredged up from the seabed.
While these two bays would be replenished by the government, Balluta Bay, which had already been included in a pilot project last year, will be funded by the nearby Marriott Hotel (formerly Le Méridien).
Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi last week announced that the hotel owner had pledged to rejuvenate the bay for the next five years.
We need to be assured
The sand at Balluta Bay had largely disappeared beneath the surface just a few months after the €110,000-replenishment pilot project had been finished last year, with many questioning the point of having brought up the sand for just a few months in the first place.
The Tourism Authority has however defended the project, saying that although the sea levels had at times risen above the sand, much of it remained in place after storms had passed.
On announcing the deal, Dr Mizzi last week promised the bay would not be subject to any concessions and would remain fully open to the public.
“There will be no sunbeds cordoning off the bay, it will remain open to the public,” he said.
Mr Buttigieg, however, expressed his doubts over the arrangement.
“Are we to be considered naive enough to think the hotel is doing this out of the goodness of its heart and expect nothing in return?” he asked.
Mr Buttigieg also asked what would happen after the five-year period had elapsed, and whether there were any contractual agreements that could be reviewed by the council.