[Xlendi Bay: Ad Maiorem Turisti (ut Melitensi) Commoditatem]
The permit issued by the Malta Environment & Planning Authority (MEPA) for the re-development of the former Ulysses Lodge in Ramla l-Hamra was issued exclusively for a tourist complex. The Authority pointed out that, for the first time since its inception, it has entered a condition in the permit which allows the sale of the property only as a whole complex and only for tourism purposes. This condition is registered as a public deed and enforceable not only through the development planning act but also through the civil courts, MEPA said. Moreover, the public deed ensures that the villas on the re-developed footprint may not be sold for residential purposes and may not be leased for residential purposes.
It also sets a limit on tourist residency, establishing that a tourist may not lease a villa for more than a year and, if using time-share, for not more than two months in a year. The condition further specifies that the development has to remain as a single business under one ownership and that no unit within the development may be issued with an individual compliance certificate by the Authority, nor may any such unit be individually serviced by a water or electricity meter by a national service provider. MEPA also reiterated that proceedings for the withdrawal of a permit may be instituted by anyone who has proof which is accepted by the Development Planning Act, but added that all allegations of irregularities are void without such proof.
That’s ok then isn’t it? I mean the buildings are not going to be houses for anyone in particular. They are only allowed to be buildings for tourists. Nobody can speculate and sell them individually. They have to be owned by one person/entity as a villa complex and leased out to tourists for a maximum of one year. Great.
You can all go back home stop protesting, put down your posters and tear up your petitions. Or maybe not. Because MEPA have not explained whether the environmental and aesthetic impact of the development changes in any way because of these foolproof clauses regarding who may own or rent what and when. For some reason MEPA seems to think that the sweetener here is that we will be attracting a too-rist who will spend a year (maximum) perched on the hill much like Ulysses in his time with Calypso. MEPA must be really thick to believe that it will win any brownie points by upping the tourism factor and trying (vainly) to convince us that this is not some speculative bit of business by land hungry contractors.
The spectres of Chambray and Santa Marija Estate are on the horizon. Sorry planning aimed at attracting that devious prey called too-rist that ends up being a useless eyesore and a flop. Yet I am sure that there are many bureaucrats in Malta who have been reduced to a pathetic macchiavellian way of thinking that is probably induced by the fact that they participated at a political party strategic planning at some point in their life. People are dealt with using oversimplified equations.Ghax il-poplu iblah. They are unhappy? Give them a rock concert or something to deviate their mind. It’s bad for the environment? Tell them it will bring lots of tourists and money. And if all else fails tell them that the alternative to your style of government is much much worse.
And so, the headless chickens have replied to the popular protest about the development – more tourism and we promise you it will be controlled. You people doth protest too much. I am not sure that the gurus at MEPA know what is in store for them. Whether they are lying back complacently in full belief that this latest answer satisfies those ignoramuses in the street.
What I do know is that people are angry and will continue being so until the Ramla Project is as much of a Myth as Ulysses’ trip and the Golf Course. For hell hath no fury like a protester ignored.