If you often walk through the Top of the World trail in Għargħur, you might have noticed an old man tending to a small shrine. Paint bucket in hand, the man is often seen planting new trees and building small cement structures, including, most recently, an actual goldfish pond hewn in the garigue terrain.
But if you walk there today, you’re likely to see that same man tearing down the structures he painstakingly built over the years.
That’s because the Planning Authority’s compliance and enforcement directorate has ordered him to remove “the illegal structure”.
“Last week the compliance and enforcement directorate contacted and instructed the contravenor that the illegal structure needs to be removed within the coming days since it is without development permission,” a spokesman for the Planning Authority told Lovin Malta.
“The officers will monitor the site and ensure that their instructions have been carried. Should the contravenor not comply, the Authority will take further enforcement action.”
The news was originally shared on Facebook’s The Salott by a “disgusted” resident who was horrified that the Planning Authority would take action against someone embellishing the area.
She pointed out that the man was threatened with a €50,000 fine, which the PA clarified is the maximum daily fines can reach if an enforcement notice is issued.
“In this case, an enforcement notice was not even issued. There was only verbal communication with the contravener, who was informed that the accumulation of structures on this land need to be removed. Since the contravener is removing the various accretions, there is no need to issue an enforcement notice,” the PA said.
Meanwhile, residents have been posting photos of the site, including the man believed to be Ronnie Gauci, dismantling the site he built.
“When I first started walking that stretch in Għargħur, about 11 years ago, it was filled with garbage and dumped rubbish. Then suddenly flowers started to appear. The area became clean… a beautiful statue of the Madonna… rock formations and ponds,” said one resident.
“It was not long before I met who was responsible for this transformation. Ronnie Gauci, who spent his own time and money doing something kind and beautiful for the collective good. Today my heart honestly broke when I took my baby for our walk, only to find Ronnie, his brother, and his son having to smash all the rock formations and shrines, as well as uproot flowers and plants, or face a €50,000 euro fine. I’m aware he did not have a permit, but come on…issue him one! He brought nothing but joy to all who met him snd saw his dedication and care. How sick that MEPA chooses this man, and this case, to flex its enforcement muscle.”
Do you think the shrine should have been removed?