28 AUGUST 2002
By Marika Azzopardi
The Qala Creek project, the newest development sensation to hit the headlines, was yesterday launched to the general public. The architects and owners of the project presented an exhibition at the Qala Primary School, in co-operation with the Qala Local Council and as part of the public consultation process.
Alternattiva Demokratika was quick to voice serious concerns over the fact that matters are being rushed. "The yacht marina project that the MTA and Tourism Ministry are in such a hurry to approve, runs contrary to recommendations made in the Gozo Local Plan," commented AD spokesman Mark Causon. He criticised the fact that the State of the Environment Report has not been published and that part of the report involves documentation on the quality of bathing water and chemical hazards posed by a concentration of yachts. This hazard is directly related to anti-fouling paint used on their hulls.
In the meantime, the detailed presentation in Qala by the developers attempted to convey the opposite message. "The site being proposed for this development is Qala Creek," stressed Architect Edward Bencini of Bencini & Associates. "Contrary to what is being said through the media, this project will not impinge on Hondoq ir-Rummien at all and is actually stopping just short of the area. However we are planning to create a heritage trail at the developers expense, stretching from Hondoq ir-Rummien to Dahlet Qorrot."
Present at the launch were also the land owners and promoters, Dr Victor Bajada and Joseph Cassar of Gozo Prestige Holidays Ltd.
The site earmarked for this development includes a disused quarry, which was purchased by the owners in 1988. Dr Bajada explained, "We have in these years, studied the kind of projects for which this land could be utilised. Government had at one point issued an encroachment which was eventually released and this involved a proposal for the creation of a dumping site. Although this fell through, dumping did happen at the expense of the lands general appearance."
The concept of the Qala Creek project is directly inspired by Positano on the Italian Amalfitana Coast and developers are stressing that this project could create 400 new jobs on the Gozitan Island. Moreover, it includes a marina, a destination port, a five-star hotel, apartments, a wharf and jetty for fishermen and more.
"The hotel will cascade from the top of the hill down to the creek and we are planning to run a project which is based on a serious environmental impact assessment," commented Dr Bencini. "The whole project is estimated to cost approximately US$ 90 million and would take about five years to complete. It would include 260 residences, ample parking facilities, between 50 to 200 berths, and a destination port for 50 potential day-trippers."
Present for the launch at Qala were also representatives of the Qala Local Council including the Qala Mayor Mr Paul Buttigieg. "I would like to stress that our presence here is not to convey either approval or disapproval of this project. We met both the developers and MEPA representatives who explained policies involving this project. With a consultation at hand, one has to see related developments. Our decision regarding the issue, will be taken in the best interest of Qala residents and will only be finalised after the public hearing is complete and after assessing Qala residents reactions through a questionnaire."
Qala is home to 1,700 residents and one can expect a variety of concerns to be voiced over the next few weeks. Including a hint of the love-hate relationship which exists between Gozitan inhabitants and the surge of foreigners who constantly flock to the Islands shore. Foreigners who boost Gozitan economy while disrupting its characteristic peace and quiet.
For better or worse, Qala Creek is set to become the new centre of attraction on Gozitan shores.