Harsien Patrimonju Mosti

2010 - JUNE 2011

This is a detailed case history of atrocious environmental planning and abuse of residential rights by reckless speculators with the appalling consent of those who are paid to avoid such abuses.

It is a clear demonstration that the very authority set up to save and restore our rapidly diminishing topographic, aesthetic and environmental assets has failed entirely in doing so, particularly since final decisions lie in the hands of the Development Control Commission (DCC).

In this case, the DCC went ahead with approving this permit without addressing all the issues raised in the case officers' refusal reports, and without proper justification in doing so. It also did this oblivious to the several important changes to the Central Plan and in total contravention of several local planning constraints.

The site concerned as it is now, and as it shall never be again!

 

The grey monster development of some 2 dozen apartments and as many garages

1. Valley bed/floor; 2.Valley ridge retaining wall;

3. Valley ridge (side), water-course and tree reserve

To date, more than 2,000 Euros have been required for the appeal, court, legal, professional and related fees. And the struggle is far from being over yet.

Under normal circumstances, these funds would have been implemented to educate or contribute towards projects aimed at preserving and regenerating our natural and cultural heritage.

Several other established or recently set up enviro-watchdogs and NGOs are in a similar situation, with an ever increasing strain on manpower, logistics and funds, as more of these are diverted into similar appeals of permits which in some cases should never even have been considered, let alone approved and sanctioned by MEPA, or better, by the DCC.

The fact that the authority responsible for environmental planning is at loggerheads with several such entities (NGOs) has itself become a problem, for in theory, all parties concerned should be on the same side, fighting the same battle, and with the unique scope and purpose of ensuring good, sustainable, eco-friendly development.

The situation has escalated to the extent that has now surpassed all tolerable limits, and the recent mushrooming of new pressure groups and residential lobbies also shows that the people do not feel adequately protected by the respective authority.

The current system favours development rather than conservation, and in effect, offers no real protection to appealing third parties, since developers are allowed to carry on with their plans unhindered while the appeal unfolds, creating situations like the case in point!

No regard whatsoever was made to these changes. Despite the importance of the site having been determined as way back as 2002, the same year of the original application, and ratified in the New Central Malta Local Plan of 2006, the DCC thought it fit to have this area built in 2009!

An appeal was filed with urgency by Nature Trust, in conjunction with another recognised objector: Harsien Patrimonju Mosti. The appeal is the only legal means currently available to counter this project.

This was not enough to stop the developers from proceeding with their plans however, and a second commencement notice was submitted to MEPA in May 2011, despite the case still
being negotiated.

This renders such procedures null and void for irreversible damage shall thus occur on several levels ranging from ecological to environmental. It also proves that the current system is inadequate in providing protection to such sites and is actually an infringement of residential and individual rights.

After this brief overview we shall carry on with our case history and ongoing updates concerning this shameful permit.

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17th March 2011

The 6th sitting relating to the Wied il-Ghasel development case was heard by a newly appointed board. Nature Trust is now being represented by Dr. Pio Valletta LLd. We would like to thank Dr. Manduca for his efforts to save our valley by accepting to appear for Nature Trust and also on behalf of HPM, which is a recognised objector in this case. Since it was unnecessary to lodge a second appeal pertaining to the same case, HPM has since been working hand-in-hand with the said Nature Trust. HPM has also been in consultation with other lawyers and legal consultants as the case develops. Architect Carmel Cacopardo is still leading the case as technical consultant.

Now that Architect Musumeci has been appointed to defend the developer's case, new plans have also been submitted and approved by MEPA. The aim of these new plans is to circumnavigate the Girna, which shall now be spared destruction. Although this sounds like good news, it is of little relevance to save the girna but then to destroy and completely alter its natural surroundings. Rural structures are part of a larger environment. This apart from the fact that the natural vibrations and magnitude of the works required for the project would shake this fragile structure to pieces.


This particular girna is also unusual because it is incorporated into a very old rubble wall and hence an integral part of its surroundings. The destruction of the said wall would therefore constitute significant damage to the original structure and system that it is part of. Although similar stone huts are known to exist in other countries, the only evidence of such structures being built into existing rubble walls is to be found in Malta.

17th May 2011

This change of plans and the submission of fresh guarantees has invigorated the developers with a new sense of initiative. After 2 years since being forced to halt works, they have found the means required to counter the issues that were in their way.

Hence, a second visit by their architects to all the adjoining residences of the neighbourhood was effected in view of insurance purposes and was accompanied by the firm declaration that a commencement notice had been lodged with MEPA and works were about to resume at the first possible moment.

As a result of these events, HPM has been in close contact with all the residents concerned and allied NGOs.

The only way for the justice to be upheld and for gross irreparable damage to important environmental, rural, cultural assets to be avoided is now through immediate and direct court action.  This also in order to safeguard the integral rights of those appealing against this project and of the residents who are insisting that action is taken to restore their infringed rights in being denied the possibility of objecting at the time concerned.


8th June 2011

On the 20th of May 2011, a warrant of prohibitory injunction lodged against the developers by no less than 21 residents was accepted by the First Hall of Malta's Civil Courts.

The relevant hearing was held today with the aim of establishing whether the claims being made by the residents are founded and should be upheld.

The court noted that according to the provisions relating to 3rd party appeals against permits granted by MEPA, the developers have a right to carry on with the works, but do so at their own risk. In case of the permit being revoked by the Appeals Board, the developers would then have to reverse any damages and return the site to its original state.

The residents argued that since the next appeal sitting is not due before the 20th September, and considering that various points are still under discussion, this shall entail subsequent hearings before procedures are expired. By the time this happens, the damage on several levels would be permanent and irreversible.


Various points were made in order to further demonstrate that the projected demolition and works shall constitute drastic alterations to the entire landscape, making it absolutely impossible to reverse this afterwards.

Consequently, this would render the appeal proceedings useless, since if the permit is revoked, there can be no way to reverse the damages to both environmental, rural and related assets. This apart from the infringement of 3rd party rights, relative material damages and tangential losses.

 
Since the Appeals Board is the only means to have this permit revoked, but considering that the board has no power to stall works until the appeal has been concluded, the only legal option to save the site from permanent destruction and to uphold the residents' rights is the said court, which has thus been asked to confirm the injunction until the appeal has been decided. 

21 Affidavits were submitted by residents along with the warrant request stating that the legally required development notices of intention were never seen in place on the facade of the property concerned denying them the possibility of objecting within the set legal time-frame. Had any notices been fixed to the wall, as required by law, they would have objected at once.

Approximately 2 years ago, the residents submitted the same affidavits to MEPA but no reply other than an acknowledgement was ever received.

Several NGO's and residents, backed by 2 local council legislatures, have called for this permit to be revoked, on several occasions and for several reasons.

On the other hand the developers remain intent in building over 20 apartments and as many garages on what is a proven protected valley ridge. This ridge enjoys international recognition and protection.

It also constitutes the largest cluster of remaining fields, right at the heart of the valley, contains various protected rural features including a rare square-shaped Maltese corbelled stone hut (Girna) and several old retaining rubble walls.  Most of the area concerned is listed as an area of ecological importance by the local authority itself in its ecological constraints map for Mosta (MOM7), and abuts directly onto a separately protected Tree Reserve.

This area is furthermore made unique by the fact that no valley crosses through any other town or village on these islands. These fields are situated at the very heart of the valley, right at the spot closest to the town centre, directly in line with the main parish Rotunda Dome church. This is the last remaining example of a town having a preserved green core, complete with several iconic features of Maltese countryside and its rural qualities.

The court was presided by Judge Anthony Ellul while Dr. Pio Valletta appeared on behalf of the residents. The date of the decision sitting is yet to be announced.

A copy of this press release may be seen in the Malta Independent's online website by following this link:

Residents continue to fight Wied il-G─žasel development

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13th June 2011

ARROGANCE & DEFIANCE IN THE FACE OF ALL!
DEVELOPERS GO AHEAD WITH THEIR PLANS DESPITE WARRANT OF PROHIBITORY INJUNCTION

On the 20th of May a warrant of prohibitory injunction lodged against the developers by no less than 21 residents was accepted by the First Hall of Malta's Civil Courts, followed by a hearing held on the 8th June, 2011.

Despite the court having adjourned for deliberation and no decision yet been made public, the developers recommenced works on site last Friday, the 10th of June and now intend escalating their efforts to the full.


Last Friday, one of the developers' team was on the site in person with one of his company vans and an employee. A generator and various other tools such as a large driller were in the van.

Two long holes were drilled into the wall touching that of the property next door. After several minutes of drilling, 2 long metal rods (about 2.5-3 feet long) were hammered into the wall. The tips were left exposed by around half a foot and black Portland cement was added to the spot where the rods enter the wall.

Although the rods must have, due to the said length, pierced right through the developers' own property and into that of the neighbouring building no notification or permission was given or sought respectively.

The approximate span of time these works were carried out is between 10.00 - 11.30am.

There is no doubt that unless a decision has been proclaimed, (which up till noon today has been confirmed as un-posted), the conditions of the warrant have been breached, since work was resumed at the site, and the works were premeditated.

The fact that the developer came to the site during working hours, with all the tools necessary to carry out whatever he had in mind only serves to substantiate the said premeditation or action by intent.

The next step in the demolition process is the reinforcement of the existing structures as to knock down the facade. So the work done last Friday was not something casual, but was directly related to the next step of the project.

This surely constitutes an act of extreme arrogance, defiance and provocation in the face of both the residents and the face of the ongoing appeals proceedings related to this case.

But it was sadly not enough. This evening, the following intentions were painted all over the facade in bright red paint!


Official (!) Site Notices & No-Parking Permit (Valid Indefinitely)

Let us now see how much further shall these developers be allowed to destroy of the valley until the appeal proceedings have been exhausted.

The green heart of an internationally recognised site and the residents' rights and integrity remain at risk of being permanently and irreversibly prejudiced and subsequently destroyed.

14th June 2011

In relation to the photo posted here yesterday with the sprayed no-parking signs on the facade of the house concerned, HPM has today verified that although no official notices were affixed anywhere on site, a 3-day 'no-parking' permit was issued by the local council.

In the photo caption, what was meant by "valid indefinitely" is that the project shall take a very long time to be completed with the necessity of hundreds more of these 3-day permits being issued. If the implications of this are limited to today's actions, it means that the pavement shall be obstructed indefinitely, for it appears that the council permit allows the truck to stay parked square on the said pavement.


But the real issue concerns the impending removal of the rich soil from the site and the debris generated when the actual valley ridge is irreversibly destroyed and cut/dug away. This would mean that dozens of trucks packed with rubble shall be revving up the slope that shall soon replace the house, right onto the said pavement and then into the main road.

Several safety considerations related to the above appear in Nature Trust's appeal as one of the topics for discussion. But in view of the current situation, there might be no point in deliberating on this since the site shall long have been ruined and emptied, and any dangers imposed on residents and members of the general public suffered, hopefully without any harm.

The above deliberation comes with the alarming news passed onto HPM earlier stating that the warrant for the prohibitory injunction has not been upheld. We are currently verifying this information and also checking exactly when the decision was posted.


It is not very common for such a decision to be taken right after the hearing and it is indeed an interesting co-incidence that the developers decided to resume large-scale works the very same morning the decision seems to have been posted.

And unless the decision was posted on Friday, the preparatory works carried out by the developers last Friday remain a proven breach of the said warrant.

The developers are more than satisfied with their achievements so far and have recommenced work on double-time. Backed by MEPA's permit (reconsideration) approval, which MEPA insists was wholly justified, they now toil hard to make up for the lost time and to carry out as much work on the site as possible before the next appeal sitting, due on September 20th.


They are doing fairly well, as one can clearly observe in these photos taken today. And the right of appeal is nullified by these works for it concerns the very stones and more of what has been carried out today, shall be carried out tomorrow, and forever more until nothing is left, but a big gaping hole awaiting concrete and cement.

This in direct and absolute exchange of a valley ridge that constitutes a world-recognised site of importance listed with various international organisations such as the:

International Union for Conservation of Nature

And this is the concluding phrase of an official news release made by MEPA on the 9th January 2009, merely one month before the DCC approved this monstrous development in one of Malta's most important sites, recognised and scheduled on an international basis.

"The Authority remains committed to implementing sustainable development principles and practices for it to pass on the natural and cultural heritage to future generations."

And yet, the images and facts presented here show exactly the reverse.

In the meantime, the developers are maintaining their efforts and have all but demolished the house giving access to the site proper. In a few day's time, a ramp shall be in place, allowing heavy machinery and bulldozers into the site. It would then be a matter of days before the site is permanently ruined.

 

20th June 2011

Demolition works are well underway now. By tomorrow, access by means of a ramp shall be complete, enabling heavy machinery to enter and ravage the site. What you see on these pages shall soon be an aide-memoir to yet another irreplaceable loss. One of major importance.

All the trees visible in the photos below, (excluding those in the Valley bed itself) were cut down today, more are expected to be destroyed tomorrow. The developers are in such a hurry that they forgot to put up the scaffolding and netting to prevent the dust and debris from the demolition from being blown into the adjoining tree reserve in the valley, just metres away.

 

Note the proximity of the tree reserve and actual valley bed. The trees in the foreground were cut today. This is not yet clear since the leaves are still green. They were cut to make way for the large bulldozers and other heavy vehicles soon on the way! Metres away from valley bed, on the actual ridge constituting a site of international importance, and also a local tree reserve. Nobody can feel the pain of these trees, nobody has heard their silent cries but we have recorded their destruction for posterity. Worse is yet to come. Some 15 trees have been destroyed so far, many more shall yet die over the coming weeks.

21st June 2011

THEY ARE HERE! THE OBLIVION HAS BEGUN!

What is being allowed to happen here is incredible and unforgivable

 

Some of the trees in the reserve may be seen flowing over the valley ridge wall while a bulldozer stands ready! The insanity of allowing a major development on a world-protected site may be clearly seen here and worse is to come.


All the area visible is just a part of the site that shall be built up. The development shall go right up to the valley boundary wall and shall be up to 4 storeys under street level in places!


HPM can only publish these photos without further comment at this moment.

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23rd June 2011

CRANE JIB PULLEY BREAKS LOSE & CABLE SNAPS!

NOBODY HURT BUT NEAR TRAGEDY

Work resumed as normal this morning with a large crane unloading large stone blocks into the site. At around 11.15am circa, the jib pulley broke causing the cable to snap. The huge blocks fell back into the truck, nearly killing the workman there. The crane had to be replaced.

This confirms the real danger involved to the adjacent properties and residents. The crane jab and blocks had been going over the roofs of 3rd party properties all morning. Had the fault occurred during any one of these moments, the consequences would have been considerable, and possibly fatal.

  

The loaded jib with heavy boulders going over 3rd party property shortly before the loose pulley broke and the cable snapped, causing 2 blocks to fall down into the truck below

It appears that the jib pulley was loose, causing the to break. All the above was observed by first hand witnesses, one of whom technical in the matter of cranes and such equipment.


At this stage one can only ask whether the equipment and machinery being used by the developers is up to date, safe, inspected and certified by the competent authorities.

And if it is, one can only wonder how and why today's accident came to be. It is a miracle none of the blocks killed anyone. This incident has only heightened the residents' concerns, who have long been objecting due to several other safety issues and factors.

The blocks are now in place. Notice the valley in the background. This view is just about to vanish...for good!

This incident also reflects on the credibility and guarantees fostered by the developers in question, who have promised to do all as required by law, but have been noted to commit several infringements, including the commencing of works before all the area was screened to avoid dust being blown into the valley bed and tree reserve that adjoin the site directly.

29th June 2011

SEVERAL CONCERNED NGOS ISSUE PRESS RELEASE ABOUT THE DESTRUCTION OF WIED IL-GHASEL

A special press release and peaceful rally was held today by a number of environmental watchdogs, trusts and other such entities this Wednesday, 29th June at 11.30am in Constitution Street, Mosta.

 
Representatives of Harsien Patrimonju Mosti, Flimkien Ghall-Ambjent Ahjar, The Ramblers Association (Malta), Nature Trust International (Malta) & Moviment Graffiti were present for this conference along with the Wied Il-Ghasel Residential Committee. Local Council member and former mayor Joe De Martino was also present.

HPM would like to thank all the various organisations, the press, the residents, and all those concerned with the safeguard of our heritage and nature for attending today's press conference, held in Mosta.


This permit would have never been granted had MEPA applied its own policies and regulations. But MEPA has little say when it comes to the DCC board, and this too is a very worrying and serious problem, especially since it nullifies the work of employees who derive their pay from our taxes to safeguard and ensure sustainable environmental planning.

 What more does one need to see and read than what is presented here, to see how the very opposite is going on. But who are we to challenge this?


Note the proximity of the valley bed. This is the actual valley ridge of a world-recognised site of importance. Here you can witness its unabated destruction, day by day.

Oh yes, of course, there is the appeal still due for September. Pity there would be little else to discuss, since all would have been pulverised and irreversibly destroyed by then.
         
At this stage, HPM is in consultation with its legal team and various other groups, local and international. A constitutional court case against MEPA and other related actions, on the basis of prejudice and discrimination, along with several other factors is not being excluded.

HPM has also embarked on other tangential strategies to stop this ruin. We shall leave no stone unturned and shall fight on till the very end, and that can only be when this abuse is rectified and justice has prevailed.

Read on, if you have the stomach!

SOS Wied il-Ghasel Page III