After mounting national pressure, including from top Labour officials, plans for a controversial development in Gozo have been pulled.
Joseph Portelli has announced that he will be “voluntarily” removing his permit to develop a villa in a field in the countryside of Qala.
The approval for his sprawling villa, which would have included a swimming pool, had come under serious criticism from everyone from former Prime Minister Alfred Sant to Cyrus Engerer, Jason Micallef, and even the Qala mayor.
Portelli, who is also behind major developments such as the Pender and Mercury House projects, was set to turn the 31 square metre ruin into a 114 square metre villa. He was able to do this by claiming that a woman had lived there 98 years ago, in 1921. Though the room has been roofless since 1978, Portelli was able to argue that it was a home.
His company, J Portelli Projects, said that the permit has been “singled out by the Planning Authority and the media” and that there were “tens if not hundreds” of other applications aimed at developing a building on an Outside Development Zone (ODZ) site.
“Some of these applications were granted permits for the erection of residences on sites which merely consisted of foundations of previous buildings,” they said in a statement today.
“We never demanded any favours from the authority. Yet we would never accept to be treated differently from others. The authority must ensure that its policies are clear in their application are applied in an indiscriminate manner,” they continued.
The decision was welcomed by Labour officials.
“Common sense prevailed,” said Cyrus Engerer. “Now it is time to drastically change section 5 & 6 of the 2014 policy to ensure this doesn’t happen ever again. For the few who raised eyebrows because of the outburst. Yes, this is people’s power and that is why it is important to speak out. Well done to all those who made their voices heard. Let’s keep up the momentum.”
Jason Micallef also said he was “satisfied” with the decision.