“Withdraw the outrageous Comino village plans, or the people will fight you” organisations warn Hili Group

Seven environmental organisations today reiterated their strong objections to a complex of villas being proposed on the island of Comino as part of the plans for the new Comino Hotel proposal filed by Hili Group. The plans, currently being considered by the Planning Authority, would see the site of the former Comino Hotel redeveloped, including the replacement of the derelict bungalows currently at Santa Marija Bay by a much larger complex of 19 villas complete with convenience store and amenities, in what could become a “Comino village” of permanent residences through use of legal loopholes. ERA’s disgraceful approval of the project is currently being appealed with the Planning Tribunal (EPRT) by several organisations.

Comino is designated as a Rural Conservation Area, a Nature Reserve, a Special Area of Conservation and Special Protection Area within the Natura2000 network, an Important Bird Area (IBA) of International and EU Importance, a Bird Sanctuary, and a Dark Sky Heritage site. The proposed development is not compatible with the island’s protection status and our legal obligations to conserve its biodiversity. The influx of heavy equipment, construction materials and workforce would cause massive environmental impact, as well as the irreversible destruction of areas of natural habitat for the complex itself and the greater area of disturbance around it. The intrusion of increased human activity in the area, through traffic, light, noise, and waste will inevitably harm the delicate local ecosystem, including populations of protected vulnerable Yelkouan Shearwaters in the direct vicinity. This is an inescapable reality, and no amount of mitigation will neutralise this harm. The fact remains that the most sustainable option is quite literally no development at all. No amount of greenwashing will negate the damage done by increased commercial activity on site.

Regardless of their claims, Hili Group’s proposed development would increase the built up area. No amount of desperate greenwashing attempts can absolve the ventures of a project that, in essence, will further lead to land being seized for private profit, with irreversible consequences on local ecosystems that are protected under law. It is not the concession holder’s right to develop the area, and we reiterate that Comino has already suffered this extensively over the years. It is destructive to monetise and commercialise an island which is a Natura 2000 site and has important and unique environmental credentials. Any expansion of human activity will be to the island’s detriment, and negatively affect the experience of those who visit Comino for peace of mind and quiet escape.

We therefore again insist that such a development should never be considered. The public has expressed its frustration at this proposed development, with over 13,500 objects sent to the Planning Authority . We once again remind the Planning Authority board that their duty does not lie with developers and big business and facilitating their ventures, but towards the greater good “on behalf of the community to provide a balanced and sustainable environment”, as per their mission statement. It would do them good to reread their purpose, and rediscover their remit.

The press conference was called by Moviment Graffitti, Din l-Art Ħelwa, BirdLife Malta, NatureTrust-FEE, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, and Ramblers’ Association.