The Nationalist Party has pledged to buy the area around Ħondoq ir-Rummien back from its private landowners and turn it into a national park if it is elected to government, The Malta Independent can reveal.
The party was answering questions sent by The Malta Independent about whether the PN agrees with a campaign being fronted by Qala mayor Paul Buttigieg to turn Ħondoq ir-Rummien back into an Outside Development Zone (ODZ).
A party spokesperson said: “A PN Government will acquire the land area in question from the private owners in order to rehabilitate and develop it into a national park with various amenities accessible to the general public.”
The news comes as a campaign to protect Ħondoq ir-Rummien from potentially massive development intensifies, with Qala’s mayor Paul Buttigieg telling The Malta Independent on Sunday that while he had been told by Prime Ministers to put his mind at rest on the area, he would not do so before the area was changed back to an ODZ.
The government owns just the small sandy beach and a part of the BBQ area at the bay. The rest was sold off to private owners before being sold on to the current landowners in 2002, while the status of the area was changed from one where it was ODZ and for afforestation to one where “tourism and marine related developments” would be considered by the then-PN administration in 2006.
Subsequently, the new land owners proposed a massive development consisting of turning the area into a port and yacht marina along with a luxury village consisting of a 195 bedroom hotel and 300 apartments.
The development would have meant that more people would live at Ħondoq than there would be in Qala – the Gozitan village just above the picturesque bay.
The development, the renders of which are reproduced above, was refused by the Planning Authority in 2016 after huge protests, but an appeal against that refusal remains ongoing, with the most recent sitting last October being deferred for a site inspection.
Asked about the Ħondoq case on Tuesday, Prime Minister Robert Abela was non-committal, laying the blame for the situation on the 15-year-old local plan changes made by the PN government in 2006.
He said that the matter is not so simple and that the government’s hands are tied by the actions of the PN administration from back then.