Labour MEP and former Prime Minister Alfred Sant is demanding the Planning Authority explain its decision to allow developer Joseph Portelli to build a villa in the middle of agricultural land in Qala.
“The PA has to publicly explain and detail the risky decision they took to authorise the construction of a massive villa outside of Qala, in an agricultural zone that has no buildings, when the recommendation was for the application to be refused,” Sant said.
“The explanation has to make it clear the exact reasons that led it to their decision after it was reported that a lot of dubious evidence was submitted to change the functions of the area the villa will be built.”
“If the explanation doesn’t come or isn’t convincing, it’s natural that doubts will grow – including mine, over whether the PA is serving its functions well and judiciously.”
“Unfortunately, all this does is reflect badly on the Labour Government at a time when, as seen in the recent budget, is carrying out unprecedented progress,” the former Prime Minister wrote on social media.
Sant’s comments follow a line of other Labour Party figures criticising the development.
MEP candidate Cyrus Engerer launched a staunch criticism against the government’s decision to approve the project after its representative voted in favour of the development.
“The argument the Labour Party always uses against the Nationalist Party about the changes in the 2006 local plans can be thrown out forever.”
“How can the Labour government vote against any other similar project when it hasn’t done so in this case?”
“Some animals are more equal than others,” Engerer said.
The Planning Authority approved the project, led by construction magnate Joseph Portelli, despite the Environment Resources Authority warning that any proposed development at the site was “unacceptable in principle”.
Portelli, who leads both the Mercury House and Pender projects, plans to increase a one-room 31 square metre ruin to a 114 square metre villa, complete with swimming pool.
The applicants were able to claim the death of a woman in the ruin back in 1921 as proof of its past residential use, even though it hasn’t had a roof since at least 1978.
The Maltese government’s representative Clayton Bartolo voted in favour of the development, while the Opposition’s representative voted against.
The project is the latest in a long line to find a loophole through the highly controversial rural policy, which is now subject to review.