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Maltese Environment

Ghadira Bay gets a blue flag…so we want to build a five-star hotel on it

The owner of the Costa del Sol restaurant in Ghadira Beach is proposing to build a brand new 6-storey five-star hotel on the site of the current restaurant and a government owned car park. The application in an advanced stage, which in Maltese translates to ‘already accepted’, but at least Ghadira Bay has managed to retain its Blue Flag status.

A brand new day brings along a brand new ostentatious construction project in the Maltese Islands. This time, we have Mr Anthony Curmi, owner of the Costa Del Sol restaurant in Ghadira Bay who has been vying for a five-star hotel since 1994. MaltaToday covered this story in great detail last year, but that particular article did not register any interest amongst its readership. The following is an annotated overview of this article, highlighting key dates in the process leading up to the most  recent development in this story:

  • 1979 – The permit for the Costa del Sol restaurant was issued
  • 1983 – Curmi applied for the construction of a first floor and garages, but the permit was never issued
  • 1994 – Curmi had presented an application to develop a 260 room four-star hotel on the same site, but the Authority considered the application a non-starter. The case officer pointed out that both the entire Costa del Sol beach club and the site of the proposed hotel belonged to the government
  • December 1997 – The Planning Authority refused the application
  • The case officer also pointed out that the project would involve the transfer of a considerable stretch of coastal area from public to private ownership and would detract the scenic value of the area. Subsequently, the developer appealed arguing that the development was set to take place on degraded land and that he had no intention to hinder public access to the beach
  • 2000 – the Planning Appeal’s Board, composed of Simon Micallef Stafrace, Lino Bianco and Samuel Formosa took note of “procedural errors” in MEPA’s processing of the case and ordered the authority to start processing the case again
  • January 2014 – Curmi resubmits a proposal for a six storey hotel in the same area
  • May 2015 – the application is in an advanced stage of consideration by the planning authority
The area circled in red is the one being earmarked for development by Mr Curmi. Costa del Sol is shown within the circle, while the rest is public land which the government has no problem selling off to this restaurant owner.

The area circled in red is the one being earmarked for development by Mr Curmi. Costa del Sol is shown within the circle, while the rest is public land which the government has no problem selling off to this restaurant owner. All the construction to the left of this proposed site consists of the illegally constructed shanty town that stupid people in Malta refer to as a summer room.

Comments made to the Times of Malta by Mr Curmi state that he is in good spirits and quite optimistic that MEPA will approve his application (finally!!). Additionally, he said that he wants:

“to invest €40 million in a five-star hotel that will transform this area into an upmarket destination”

I always look for these comments when I read an article relating to a new development. It takes me back to those biology essays they used to make us write during my university exams – beat about the bush and pretend to know what you’re talking about when you clearly have no clue what is going on. Correct me if I’m wrong, but there is already hotel next to this site, a four-star hotel in that same street, a holiday complex down the road, two hotels further up in close to Cirkewwa and other smaller accommodation facilities in the village of Mellieha. I’m pretty sure that the area is not as desperate for a new luxury hotel as Anthony Curmi is to make a couple of millions off public land.

Additionally, one needs to mention that the area surrounding Ghadira Bay has been the target for illegal and contentious development for years. The Seabank hotel had an extension approved in 2010, leading to removal of what the government at the time called unsuitable agricultural land, Mellieha Holiday Complex (Danish Village) applied for an extension of 30 new units, and Mellieha Bay Hotel applied for further extensions in 2007.

One should also keep in mind the shanty town next to the site is all illegally occupied by squatters, and that Maltese governments refuse to kick them off public land. Furthermore (there is just no end to this), we should also remember how MEPA allowed concrete to be laid onto the beach to accommodate for those traditional Maltese kiosks on the beach itself, which is a Natura2000 site.

The situation is becoming utterly insufferable. While we’re at it, how about the government just sells off half the beach to the private sector so that it can boost the local economy? I guess that the rest of the Maltese people will just have to wing it from now on. If the Radisson Golden Sands Hotel in Golden Bay can serve as an indicator, it is very likely that this hotel would appropriate a part of the beach for ‘private use by guests’.

But at least, Ghadira Bay gets a Blue Flag. Jolly good then, all is right with the world.

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