MaltaToday | 27 August 2008

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NEWS | Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Clouds over Comino

Fear of development grows as new owners inject capital in Comino Hotel

A change in ownership which saw leading entrepreneur Joseph Gasan and property magnate George Fenech joining Albert Mizzi on the board of directors of the company which owns the Comino Hotel, is prompting concern over their plans for the unspoilt island of Comino.
While Fenech has already left his mark with major development projects like Portomaso, and Mizzi, whose portfolio includes the Tigné development, is planning 90 bungalows in Mellieha, the change of ownership in Kemmuna Ltd was accompanied by a major injection of capital.
Tony Zammit Cutajar, whose family leased the island of Comino between 1926 and 1960, has ominously warned of “moves afoot to develop parts of the island”.
The warning comes two years after the Gozo and Comino local plan, approved by environment minister George Pullicino in August 2006, laid down approval for the “upgrade” of facilities in the tourism complex at Santa Marija and the Comino Hotel in the San Niklaw bay.
Both existing facilities are presently leased by Kemmuna Ltd.
Last November, Lombard Bank sold its shares in Kemmuna Ltd to Hili Investments Ltd, which immediately sold their shares to Ropes Services Limited – a company registered in the Isle of Man offshore tax haven.
This was followed by an increase of the company’s authorised share capital, which now amounts to €3.4 million.
In the same period, Lombard Bank director Joseph Said, who was recently appointed chairman of Heritage Malta, gave up his directorship in Kemmuna Ltd, together with entrepreneur Alec Mizzi – son of Albert Mizzi.
They were replaced by new directors Joseph A. Gasan and George Fenech.
Last May, a new memorandum of association was signed by Albert Mizzi and Maurice Mizzi on behalf of Mizzi Associated Enterprises, and Joseph Gasan and George Fenech on behalf of Ropes Services.
One of the new objectives of the company is “to own, manage or administer the charter of yachts, boats and other vessels” and “to engage in property development” and to “demolish, construct and finish buildings whether of a residential or commercial nature.”

Planning opportunities
Although the Gozo and Comino local plan accord the whole of the island the status of a Special Area of Conservation and of a nature reserve, it still offers the present hotel owners a window of opportunity.
The local plan allows them to “upgrade” the existing tourist complex and hotel if it is “compatible with the sensitivity of the surrounding context.”
The local plan does not expressively ban new development even if it states that the “main thrust of upgrading should be directed towards the rehabilitation of the existing product and the redevelopment of the current facilities.”
The local plan also earmarks San Niklaw and the Blue Lagoon areas in Comino as a possible site for a “destination port” alongside Marsalforn and Hondoq ir-Rummien in Gozo. The same developers at Hondoq use the term destination port as a euphemism for a fully blown yacht marina.
The Gozo and Comino local plan proposes that such destination port will be linked with existing commercial establishments – namely the Comino hotel – for the provision of necessary services such as onshore toilet facilities or garbage disposal for yachts.
The development of destination ports in appropriate areas around Comino is being proposed with the aim to completely prohibit anchoring of individual boats.
The plan states that MEPA should encourage the Malta Maritime Authority to undertake a more efficient management of maritime traffic around Comino and in particular in the Blue Lagoon area, so as to minimise conflicts between maritime activity and other recreational uses in the area.
Destination ports in Comino are being proposed to address “the need to upgrade facilities for nautical tourism while protecting the environment.”
The plan proposes that destination moorings will be seasonal in nature, so that the infrastructure can be stored away in winter


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