Friday 30 October 2020

Developers feel above the Law in Mensija hamlet

The residents of the quaint hamlet of Mensija in San Gwann are horrified that notwithstanding a Conversation Order and Protection Notice issued by the Environmental Resources Authority (ERA) affording full protection to the unique geological ‘sinkhole’ in Mensija, San Gwann, and further to the refusal by the Planning Authority back in December 2019 of the planning application PA/04214/19 to develop a site near the Mensija sinkhole, this time the land owner, as a new applicant, has submitted a new application under ref PC/00026/20 to develop a schemed road on part of the same site. 

The residents are asserting that the laying out of a schemed road is a precursor to eliminate one of the many issues raised in the original Development Permit Application Report (DPA) report, hence they are claiming that the intention of the land owner to develop the rest of the site is very evident. Whilst they are objecting in totality to the proposed schemed road on land that has been scheduled by ERA and which prohibits any type of development around the sinkhole, least of all a road formation, the residents are maintaining that this is clearly the prelude to further development. 

To the utter dismay of Mensija Residents, NGOs and citizens who appreciate our historical heritage at localities level, the developer seems intent in his ploy to disregard the Conservation Order and Protection Notice issued by ERA back in November 2019.  The latter Conservation Order and Protection Notice is also supported by the Planning Authority (PA) as only last December the PA has rejected a similar application for the same area. As mentioned above.

“The Solution and Subsidence Structure in tal-Mensija,” as the sinkhole in San Gwann has been designated by ERA in its Protection Notice, is replete with Maltese carob trees and its perimeter  contains a series of natural caves, one of which is home to the Chapel of Mensija or the ‘Santwarju tal-Mensija’ as it is known to the locals.   

Over the years, ERA has carried out multiple studies of the ground, the rock face and the habitat of the Mensija sinkhole and has now said that it is of the opinion that this site must benefit from the highest level of protection under the Environment Protection Act of the Laws of Malta. The Authority is particularly concerned to preserve the integrity of the various natural caves along the perimeter wall of the site and has ensured that the lower level of the sinkhole and any area above it which abuts the perimeter walls and the caves at higher level is zoned as a core protection area making it ‘strictly protected’.  

Over 250 objections were submitted in respect of the recently rejected development application including the Archbishop’s Curia – which is concerned about the stability of the unique Mensija Chapel constructed in one of the perimeter caves which could put the lives of who those attend mass daily at risk, most of the local residents, some of whose dwellings lie directly above or near these caves and various NGOs, including the Grand Commandery of the Castello which owns the historic Torri ta’ Lanzun, situated near Mensija Chapel. 

The Residents are hopeful that the Authorities will again stand up for the environment and the community as they did last December. This development will dwarf both the picturesque Mensija Chapel and Torri ta’ Lanzun and threaten the unique natural beauty and historical significance of this area. The closing date for objections against this latest threat is this Thursday 23rd July 2020, via email on [email protected] or through the link https://www.pa.org.mt/en/pccasedetails?CaseType=PC/00026/20 and click on ‘Submit Representation’ in the lower part of page. 

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