Sunday Times of Malta, 4 October 2009, by Ivan Camilleri in Brussels –

Two petitions on the proposed controversial tourist development at Ta’ Ċenċ have been left open by the European Parliament pending the conclusion of further discussions between the Commission and Malta later this month.

A Commission representative said although Malta had already adhered to the Commission’s directive to insert the Ta’ Ċenċ plateau into its Natura 2000 network of protected areas, a delegation would be raising the issue again during a meeting with the Maltese authorities to establish whether the proposed project could still go on as well as inspect the planning modifications.

The petition had been filed by Din l-Art Ħelwa and Alternattiva Demokratika in 2007.

Originally, Malta had only designated the cliffs section of the Ta’ Ċenċ area as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), which limits any development in such a highly environmental sensitive zone.

However, following pressure by Brussels, the government included the Ta’ Ċenċ plateau on its list of SAC designated areas. Still, this does not exclude restricted sustainable development.

“The Commission is informed that fresh plans have already been presented to the Malta Environment and Planning Authority and are still under scrutiny,” a Commission representative said.

Nationalist MEP Simon Busuttil, who intervened on the issue, criticised the EP’s Petition Committee and the Commission for taking so long to discuss petitions that were originally presented in 2007.

“We need to know where the Commission stands on this issue without any further delays. The Commission should be able to come up with a clear answer by the next meeting of the petitions committee next month,” Dr Busuttil said.

His position was also supported by Labour MEP John Attard Montalto who said it would be opportune to wait for discussions to be held with the Maltese authorities so that the Commission could give a clear answer.

The committee’s chairman said that in view of the latest developments, she would ensure the petition was once again on next month’s agenda.

The Sunday Times is informed that following the upgrade of the Ta’ Ċenċ area to a fully fledged Natura 2000 site last November, fresh plans were submitted by the developers to Mepa scaling down the project. These plans were also discussed during a private meeting in Brussels between the developers and Commission officials.

Mepa still has to take a decision on the new proposals.