The environment watchdog has strongly objected to a request to sanction a raft of illegalities on a site outside the development zone in Bidnija.

Objectors believe there is a disguised plan to turn a derelict agricultural store and an adjacent reservoir – which the applicant is seeking to roof over – into what could eventually became a habitable residence, with a new reservoir which may become a pool.

The application, filed by developer and excavations contractor Emanuel Bonavia, is seeking permission to sanction illegal works carried out on this stretch of agricultural land near Sqaq ta’ San Pawl Milqi, off Triq tal-Milord in Bidnija.

Through PA 479/22, the applicant is seeking to sanction work on rubble walls and the formation of a ramp in agricultural land.

He is also seeking a permit to build more new rubble walls around the site as well as the installation of a timber gate, to demolish and re-construct the existing deteriorated agricultural store, as well as the uprooting of trees and the construction of an underground reservoir.

In its objection to the application, the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) said the illegal rubble walls had not been built with the traditional random rubble technique, were incompatible with the rural character and caused visual impacts. 

“The construction of the walls for uses other than soil retention purposes are considered unnecessary,” it said.

The site is subject of an enforcement notice. During the investigations, enforcement officers had justified the presence of an excavator on site, saying it was being used to plant new trees which did not require a permit.

Just a few months ago, the same developer obtained the green-light for similar illegal works on an adjacent site where he had previously tried to relocate a farmhouse from Wied Blandun in Fgura.

The application had been withdrawn before a decision was taken.

The applicant started works without a permit, paving the way for the construction of some two kilometres of rubble walls around his land, some of them at double the permitted height.

Excavation works also saw the levelling of three terraced fields. Illegal works persisted despite several enforcement notices and without permission from the cultural heritage watchdog since it is an area of archaeological importance.

The permit was granted despite warnings by ERA on the sanctioning of illegal works in ODZ zones and even overturned the case officer’s recommendation to refuse.

ERA had said it was “increasingly concerned with the malpractice of first carrying out ODZ development abusively and subsequently expecting the regulatory authorities to retroactively rubber-stamp a fait accompli.”

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