The fate of Ħondoq ir-Rummien in Gozo could be decided on Thursday, when an appeals tribunal reaches its final decision on the long-running proposal of a hotel and marina in the bay.
The 104,000 square metre mega-development by Gozo Prestige Hotels was unanimously rejected by the Planning Authority board in June 2016, at the end of a 14-year battle by residents and environmental groups who fiercely oppose the project.
The developers appealed the refusal, however, arguing that their right to a fair hearing had been denied, as they were given only 15 days to prepare for the PA hearing, leaving them with insufficient time to bring forward the experts who had authored studies in support of the application.
They are also calling for the project to be sent back to assessment in order for new plans – replacing the proposed marina with a lagoon and significantly reducing the built-up area – to be considered.
The PA has refused to consider the new plans, as they constitute a “material change” to the proposal and therefore require a fresh application.
The Environment and Planning Review Tribunal (EPRT) is exp-ected to announce its decision on Thursday. The proposed development seeks to turn a large disused quarry and an additional area of garigue overlooking Ħondoq into a 110-bedroom hotel spread across nine floors, with four levels of underground parking.
The developers are also looking to build 25 villas, 60 apartments and 200 multi-owner properties, with the development being likened by PA board members to “a whole new village at Ħondoq”.
The PA case officer recommended the application for refusal, describing it as a “highly dense urban development within an area designated as rural coastline”, and contrary to several national policies.
Transport Malta was one of four consultees that has objected to the development, which it said would not function due to the increase in traffic generation.
Qala already has the second highest level of air pollution in Gozo, and 85 per cent of residents voted against the development in a local referendum on the project back in 2002.
The local council has consistently maintained that the application should be rejected.
In their appeal, Gozo Prestige Hotels acknowledged the widespread opposition to its project, but the developer insisted that the criticism was “unfounded and based on an incorrect interpretation of events and the legal planning issues involved”.
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