27 July 2005


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Agricultural leases terminated to make way for golf course

A number of farmers have told The Malta Financial and Business Times that they have received a notice for the termination of their agricultural lease on land which has been earmarked by government for the development of a golf course in Ghajn Tuffieha.
Although no studies and environmental impact assessments have been conducted so far on the Xaghra l-Hamra site, the termination of these leases can be interpreted as a sign that government is paving the way for the Ghajn Tuffieha golf course developers.
The government has recently issued 19 notices for the termination of agricultural leases. A total of 14 leases have been issued on land in Manikata in Mellieha.
These notices were published in illegible print on the Times of Malta yesterday.
Farmers from Manikata have told this newspaper that farmers owning land on the site earmarked for the development of a golf course have received letters with the termination of lease notice.
Questions sent to the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry for the Environment and Rural Affairs yesterday went unanswered by the time of going to print.
The termination of leases in the area identified for the Ghajn Tuffieha golf course is an indication of the fast track approach being adopted by the government on this issue.

Unlike other golf course applications like the rejected Verdala golf course and the still pending Habel Bellu application, the Xaghra l-Hamra site has been endorsed by MEPA and the government before an environment impact assessment has been conducted on the site.
Replying to questions by sister paper MaltaToday MEPA insisted that any application should include the necessary studies including also a full Environmental Impact Assessment.
But the Ghajn Tuffieha site was not one of the sites identified by MEPA in October.
The site was referred to MEPA by the government following the handing over of the Hal-Ferh Holiday Complex from Air Malta to the government.
The Ghajn Tuffieha site has not been evaluated in the same way as the other sites included in MEPA’s October report.
So far the only published report assessing the Xaghra l-Hamra site was the one prepared by golf consultants Hawtree and Sons.
This report states that the Xaghra l-Hamra site has “a great deal of promise”. While noting that this site is a much better candidate than White Rocks, the same report notes that a golf course on this site will be less straightforward and more expensive than the Habel Bellu application.
A few days ago referring to the concern on the future of the scout camp in Ghajn Tuffieha, a spokesperson for the Ministry for the Environment and Rural Affairs told MaltaToday that “it must be emphasised that at this point there is only a proposal for a golf course site. In view of this, there is no definite course of action and all decisions will be based on the outcome of studies and consultation processes that will be conducted.”
It seems that the same caution is not being shown with regards to agricultural leases on this site.

jdebono@newsworksltd.com



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