In what was a second major victory in the space of a few months for the environment, plans for a golf course in the centre of Malta have been rejected by the Board responsible for planning decisions, with a vote of 12-0 against the proposal.
Three major tourism companies - AX Holdings, Carlson Companies and Regent Hotels – were hoping to build an 18-hole golf course, country club and luxury hotel on prime agricultural land that has been farmed for hundreds of years, and which currently provides 98 farmers with their livelihoods.
Malta is the most developed country in Europe. Over the last 50 years, large tracts of countryside have been sacrificed for tourism and housing developments. Agricultural land is scarce, and the country grows enough to feed only 17 percent of the population.
Friends of the Earth Malta have battled one golf course proposal after another in recent years, most of them planned for areas of agricultural importance or scenic beauty. Developers have been known to threaten farmers in order to persuade them to sell off their agricultural land, and the government has relied on decisions made by planning bodies with heavy input from the tourism industry and none by environmentalists.
Calculations showed that if Malta was the size of France, the proposed golf course would have filled a space three times the size of Paris.
"This land has been tilled by our forefathers and by us for hundreds of years," a Maltese farmer said. For now at least, there is renewed hope that this tradition will continue, and that Malta can keep the land for green beans, not golf.