The Malta Independent 23 May 2024, Thursday
View E-Paper

NGOs, Hili Group clash over Comino project factsheet

Sunday, 22 January 2023, 13:54 Last update: about 2 years ago

Environmental organisations and the developers of a controversial project in Comino have clashed over a factsheet on the plans which the latter has issued. 

In a statement, the NGOs called on developers Hili Ventures to “be transparent with the public about the plan for a new Hotel and Bungalows complex on Comino.” 

The NGOs also urged the public to object to “the monstrous plan for Comino that will see irreparable damage to the natural environment and the “urbanisation by stealth” of Santa Marija Bay.” 

ADVERTISEMENT

In their statement, the NGOs said that Hili Ventures had claimed that the redevelopment will see a reduction of overall footprint for their proposed plans. 

“But this claim masks the fact that the current site is made up of buildings that take a small proportion of the site, while the rest consists of 8 tennis courts, a volleyball court, trees and natural landscape. The new plans show a significant increase of built-up area for both the hotel with an increase of 1394 m2 and a massive increase of 2936 m2 for the bungalows at Santa Marija Bay (source: EIA / Belvedere Architects, July 2021). These plans clearly show an increase of Gross Floor Area of 43.5 %. Although Hili have since reduced the number of bungalows from 21 to 19, this will still result in a much higher building density for the site,” the NGOs said. 

“Hili Ventures also claims that the proposed redevelopment will be sustainable and respect Comino Natura 2000 management plans. NGOs again slam the developer for shameless greenwashing of the scheme as it fails to remind the public that 380 protected, mature trees will be removed with major impact for the environment and that the influx of heavy equipment, construction materials, workforce, and increased human disturbance from the hotel’s operation would cause massive environmental impact. The most sustainable development for Comino is no “development” at all.” 

The NGOs also said that they extremely concerned by the creation of a “Comino Village” and say that Hili Ventures is trying to hide “the reality of their scheme for Santa Marija Bungalows, which the developer routinely refers to  as “serviced Bungalows”.” 

“Whilst the original bungalows were rented for temporary occupation, the Environment Impact Assessment submitted by the developer makes it plain that Comino would end up with a permanent population on the island by stating, “The serviced bungalows, that form an integral part of the complex, will be for sale, and prospective owners can opt to put their property in a rental pool, serviced by the hotel,” the NGOs said. 

“It is shocking that such a lack of transparency can be entertained for a project that could have a massively negative impact for Comino, the last unspoiled area in our country,” the organisations said. 

The seven NGOs who signed the statement were BirdLife Malta, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Moviment Graffitti, Nature Trust Malta - FEE, and RamblersAssociation of Malta. 

However, the company rebutted the NGOs in its own statement, saying that the figures quoted by the NGOs were “outdated” and “do not reflect the plans currently being considered by the Planning Authority for the new Comino Hotel and Bungalows.” 

“As is normal in such projects, the plans have gone through several iterations, following stakeholder consultation. Before accusing anyone of misleading the public, it is vital that the NGOs make sure they are quoting correct and updated figures,” the company said. 

“The current proposal reduces the built footprint by 5,122 square metres and will accommodate fewer guests, creating an overall reduction in intensity. The serviced bungalows are not and will not be for sale. They will be operated as one single touristic resort by the hotel operator,” it concluded. 

  • don't miss