ENGOs express grave concern at Fomm ir-Rih ‘Agro-Tourism’ Proposal

ENGOs express grave concern at Fomm ir-Rih ‘Agro-Tourism’ Proposal

Friends of the Earth Malta together with the six undersigned ENGOs wish to express their grave concern about the proposal to turn the Fomm ir-Rih Rural Hamlet into a tourist complex, under the guise of an agro-tourism project.

The project includes the demolishing of several existing buildings to make way for new suites, as well as the take up of fresh land for the construction of a number of new units. The hamlet in question is a Grade 3 Rural Settlement and thus receives the highest protection at law, making the proposal blatantly illegal.

Since the area in question is also ODZ, the policies only allow for bona-fide agro-touristic related construction intended to support an established and continuing farming enterprise, which is not the case here.

The policy also does not allow accommodation intended for agro-tourism to be parcelled up into the 16 or so individual suites being proposed, and requires the development to be compatible with the rural character of the area. The demolition of certain vernacular structures and the construction of 11 individual buildings containing large expanses of glass, is clearly not a project that can be considered to retain the character of this rural hamlet.

The road leading to this site is extremely narrow, buttressed by very ancient, original dry-stone walls, with very few passing points, making it virtually impassable for heavy construction traffic. This will inevitably lead to an ‘upgrade’ of roads in the area, making the damage much worse than appears on paper.

Once the site has been ‘committed’ by the development, this would set a precedent for future development on this site as environmental protections have been deliberately weakened to allow for elastic interpretation of existing policies. The entire site area is 46,000m2, allowing for future expansion.

Fomm ir-Rih is one of the unspoilt gems of the Maltese islands and nearby development is bound to compromise the landscape of this beautiful natural and cultural site.

The view from the historic Victoria Lines running to the Southeast of the proposed development also risks being marred by the resulting eyesore.

Fomm ir-Rih bay already suffers from accessibility problems, with the public being forced to descend to the pebble beach through a dangerous route so that a nearby private residence can continue to restrict access to the only straightforward way of reaching the bay. The proposed development lies along the route leading to the promontory, and thus the possibility of further access restrictions to Fomm ir-Rih in the future is a genuine concern.

Any development project on such a site of outstanding natural beauty should never be considered, particularly given the rampant overdevelopment that the PA has permitted over the last few years. It will certainly not serve the interests of the public, which lacks green open spaces and already suffers from an abundance of ill thought out tourism projects.

The Ramblers’ Association of Malta, Flimkien Għal Ambjent Ahjar (FAA), Nature Trust Malta, Friends of the Earth Malta, Din L-Art Helwa, Futur Ambjent Wieħed and The Archaeological Society of Malta.