The Malta Independent 29 July 2021, Thursday

Road works on Comino illegal, Ombudsman rules

Tuesday, 27 April 2021, 16:52 Last update: about 3 months ago

The roadwork which took place between February and March on Comino are illegal, the Commissioner for Environment and Planning within the Ombudsman’s office ruled on Tuesday.

The works in question were conducted by a contractor engaged by the Ministry for Gozo, and took place in the road that leads to the Blue Lagoon in Comino.

On the 5th of April 2021, the office of the Ombudsman received a request from PN MP Robert Cutajar, who is the Opposition Speaker for the Environment and Climate Change, regarding an alleged breaking of environmental rules or laws on Comino by Government officials.

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The “illegal” roadworks near the Blue Lagoon were blasted by a number of environmental organisations. The Planning Authority meanwhile said that the works do not require a permit and the Gozo Ministry said everything is being done according to an ERA permit.

The Ombudsman however said that the service culvert which was being constructed does not qualify as a work of emergency and that no permission from the Planning Authority (PA) was published for the said works.

The Ombudsman recommended that the PA should publish a notice to stop the works in question. The Ombudsman also suggested that this site should be reverted to its original state, where certain interventions are reversable.

Apart from this, the PA should fine the offenders and place the money gathered in a fund for the safeguarding of Comino.

The Ombudsman also suggested that if a service culvert is to be constructed, the PA should ensure that it is covered by a full development application and that a certain degree of consultancy takes place.

PN reacts: ‘Ombudsman confirms what we were saying from the start’

The PN said that the Ombudsman’s investigation had “concluded and confirmed what the Opposition has been saying from the very start”.

“The works carried out in Comino, a protected area, with environmental value and a Natura 2000 site, were unauthorised and have caused irreparable damage. In his conclusions, the Commissioner for the Environment and Planning in the Office of the Ombudsman refutes the excuses that the Labour Government has tried to use, that the works were emergency works, to justify these works”, the PN’s statement read.

The PN said that this is not an “isolated case”, as these types of incidents have become “the order of the day under the PL Government.”

The party criticised the Environment Minister for staying silent after such revelations, and questioned why he has not condemned such actions.

“For the Opposition, the Government’s attitude against the interest of the common good in the environmental field is unacceptable. The Government has not begun to understand the gravity of the problems we have, and many times it is the same Government which is causing these problems. The Nationalist Party remains determined to continue to transform itself into a credible alternative for strengthening the environment in our country,” the statement read.

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