A horse rescuer has been left with no choice but to relocate his horses after applications for a permit to build stables were shot down.
Keith Balzan Gera has racked up close to €4,000 in fines after he built a rubble wall, a paddock and ancillary facilities for his four rescued horses on his farm in the limits of Mtfara, whilst waiting for an appeal judgment for permits to build a stable.
“I had appealed but someone from the Planning Authority said it was already rejected,” Balzan Gera told Lovin Malta.
“It’s all for nothing, not even the permit is going to be granted,” he said.
Prior to his purchase, the land was used as a scrapyard. Balzan Gera transformed the area by removing debris and clearing the area of rubble to create a flat space for his stables.
In addition to the makeshift paddock, Balzan Gera also erected ancillary facilities including a hay store, a waste management facility and a water reservoir.
Amongst those who objected to the paddock project was the Ramblers Association of Malta, Moviment Graffitti, The Archaeological Society Malta and the Rabat Local Council.
“We object and we would object again,” said Andre Callus of Moviment Graffitti. “He’s a contractor and he sells property. We don’t buy his story.”
“The rural police allows for stables and agricultural stores and people apply to build that but later turn it into something different.”
Activists have long flagged loopholes in planning laws that allow horse stables to be converted into rural housing. The Planning Authority was working on a reform to close these loopholes but halted the process in 2018 out of concern of the impact it would have on animal welfare and the design of the stables.
However, Balzan Gera denies that this was ever his intention, insisting that he told the appeal board that his sole intention was to provide a home for four retired racing horses.
“I had made it clear that I have a place to live, I don’t intend to live in a valley. I’m against all these things. I’m not planning on building something. They approved four permits in another valley on the same day they rejected mine,” he said.
“Agricultural land isn’t a place where I can go build a house, but for animals, I don’t see a problem. If I apply for three stables, I have to have three horses. The case isn’t what they are saying. You can’t just apply for stables and not have any horses,” he continued.
With fines increasing daily, Balzan Gera had no choice but to destroy his makeshift paddocks and rehome his horses elsewhere until a suitable alternative is found.
“I just bought a piece of land with a permit because I couldn’t do anything else,” he ended.
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