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PA Approves ‘Unacceptable’ Gozo Rural-Ruin To Villa Conversion For Mercury House Developer

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A countryside ruin in Gozo is set to become a villa belonging to construction magnate Joe Portelli, the man behind the Mercury House and Pender projects.

The Planning Authority approved the project set in a Qala valley despite the Environment Resources Authority telling them that any proposed development at the site was “unacceptable in principle”.

The Maltese government’s representative Clayton Bartolo voted in favour of the development, while the Opposition’s representative voted against.

“The site of the proposed development is located in a very sensitive rural location. In fact, the site is directly within an Area of High Landscape Sensitivity (AHLS) atop a predominantly undisturbed rural coast,” ERA said in a statement.

“ERA remains of the opinion that the proposed development will result in overdevelopment of the site,” ERA continued.

The project is set to increase the one-room 31 square metre ruin to a 114 square metre villa, complete with swimming pool.

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.

The applicants were able to claim that the death of a woman in the ruin back in 1921 as proof of past residential use,  even those it hasn’t had a roof since at least 1978.

PA chairman Vince Cassar agreed with this interpretation.

The Qala local council and environmental  NGOs are appealing the decision.

With a reform currently taking place for the policy, maybe questions should be asked whether applications should be halted, as was suggested with the fuel station policy review.

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