Ta’ Cenc referendum should be postponed – Din l-Art Helwa
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Din l-Art Helwa has stated that the Ta' Cenc referendum should be postponed and preceded by a wider debate.
Din l-Art Helwa referred to news reports revealing that this Saturday, the Sannat Local Council is holding a consultative referendum on the application for development at Ta' Cenc.
"This site is of both national and international importance, and included in the European Union network of Natura 2000 sites," said DLH.
A petition against this project was organised by Din l-Art Helwa in 2007, gathering over 10,000 signatories. This petition was presented to Parliament by two MPs, one from the Opposition, who is today the Minister for Home Affairs, and the other from the Government side.
Din l-Art Helwa welcomed the fact that the residents of Sannat are given another opportunity to make their voices heard. But it questions why the Sannat Local Council did not publicise the referendum more widely.
"This makes the referendum seem questionable, and does a disservice to the initiative. The wording of the referendum question is also not acceptable as it does not reflect the full scale of the project, leaving out the 15 ODZ villas," the NGO said.
"Any referendum should be preceded by a wide and healthy debate, involving all sides of the question, to ensure that voters are fully informed about the facts, background and implications of the vote. A full information campaign should have been organised, and from at least several weeks in advance."
DLH added that, "the Electoral Commission should not involve itself in any voting process without ensuring that voters have received timely and adequate information about the vote, and have been given the opportunity to hear all sides. The referendum should be postponed until this has been ensured."
"The parameters for the entire application have changed entirely since the application was first submitted twenty years ago. The proposal is based on the Structure Plan, which is no longer in force and which has been replaced by the Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development (SPED)."
"Development applications are to be decided by the Board on laws and policies currently in force at the time when it takes its decision on the application," DLH said. "The SPED clearly states that the location of new residences should be within urban areas, and does not envisage any such development at Ta Cenc."
"Moreover, it was clarified by the Government in a letter to the MEPA Board in 2006, that the Local Plan for the area limits the development in the lower part of the plateau to the existing development, and does not allow further development in this area."
Din l-Art Helwa renewed its appeal to the authorities to refuse the renewed proposal to build 15 villas on the plateau near Mgarr ix-Xini at Ta' Cenc in Gozo, as well as the proposed interpretation centre and the other proposed structures outside the development zone. "These are completely unacceptable and should be thrown out by the Planning Authority."