PA approves jetty service in Balluta Bay

Updated 09:13 AM

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The Planning Authority has given the green light to Fortina’s private jetty service in Balluta Bay. The decision on the application by Fortina hotel owners was taken on Monday morning.

The project involves the building of a private jetty that will serve as a hop-on-hop-off tourist service run by the Fortina Hotel owners.

Immediate was the reaction of activist group Moviment Graffitti who wrote on Facebook that “three members of the Planning Commission actively defended the Fortina application as if it were their own.”

During the sitting this morning the questions by the public on why certain Planning Authority’s policies are ignored in the application were not answered by the members of the board.

Earlier this year 11 NGOs and the St. Julian’s Local Council said that they were outraged at the fact that those who have already taken “every inch of land in the area” want to privatise the sea and coast. They had also said that the private jetty would dominate and pollute the bay as well as pose a constant danger to bathers and swimmers.

On Saturday St. Julian’s Mayor Albert Buttigieg expressed serious concerns on the manner the application is being treated which is giving rise to suspicions of “behind-the-scenes negotiations by the wealthy and powerful developers”.

Buttigieg said that the application violates planning policy, and yet it is not being refused immediately.

“PA still controlled by big business” – FAA

The NGO Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar (FAA) said that during Monday’s session, the Planning Authority was leaning heavily towards the developers.

In a press statement, following the PA’s decision, FAA stated that Malta still has no respect for legally-binding environmental policies and obligations and that the Planning Authority is still controlled by big business and that good governance is far from a reality. 

Astrid Vella, the coordinator of FAA, said that the Captain Morgan representatives changed their previous standpoint, admitting that the pontoon is to be used for a tourist service rather than to cater for alternative means of transport, as originally claimed.

The catamaran is proposed to pass through the bay 21 times a day, which will make swimming and watersports in the area impossible. 

The objectors based their arguments on the fact that Balluta Bay is legally designated as a bathing zone and therefore cannot be used for activities which are not compatible.

Although Captain Morgan insists that it will be using non-polluting ecological vessels, NGO Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar pointed out that the company can switch to other vessels, while other companies using the pontoon may not have the same condition imposed on them. 

Project ‘part of holistic transport plan,’ PA insists

On its part, the Planning Authority argued that that the applicant “had provided sufficient justification for the project to be given the green light” by showing that the project “is not a standalone business opportunity but part of a holistic plan which links land and sea transport.”

It said that the proposed ferry, which should link to the existing hop-on hop-off bus service, would be part of a maritime transport route system covering several popular areas along Malta’s eastern coast.

The ferry service, according to the Planning Commission, was an alternative transport solution which would reduce traffic congestion, especially at the Sliema ferries, by reducing the need for coaches to transport tourists from their hotel accommodation in St Julians.

It also stressed that the vessels which would be used were environmentally-friendly with the most stringent emission standards and an on-board sewage treatment system.