The Planning Authority has yet to enforce the provisions of a 2014 deed with the Gaffarena family on their ‘illegal’ fuel station in Qormi, although a three-year temporary clearance expired more than two months ago.
A copy of the notarial deed, signed before notary Malcolm Mangion between Planning Authority chief executive Johann Buttigieg and Joseph Gaffarena on behalf of J. Gaff Service Station Ltd of Qormi provided for a ‘temporary clearance certificate’ so the ‘legal parts’ of the fuel station could function.
It included strict conditions, including that the Gaffarenas had to make a bank guarantee of €507,200 by March 2015 and that all illegalities would be removed or sanctioned by March 6, 2017.
The deed also stipulated that, in case the illegalities – including illegal structures, among them a showroom and the first floor –were not removed or sanctioned on time through a new planning application, the Gaffarenas would lose the bank guarantee and the station would be closed again.
However, while last March 9, the PA refused to sanction the illegalities and turned down the new application filed by the Gaffarenas, the station remained open with no explanation being given about why the deed was not enforced.
Asked repeatedly to state their position on the conditions in question once the March 6 deadline had elapsed and the illegalities were still in place, both Planning Parliamentary Secretary Deborah Schembri and the PA did not comment.
Dr Schembri would not provide this newspaper with a copy of the deed, arguing that it would be published “at the right time”.
The PA only said that the Gaffarenas had filed an appeal. The deed, a copy of which was obtained by the Times of Malta after a request under the Freedom of Information Act, excludes any reference to the planning process or the appeal stage.
The deed specifies that “if, at the lapse of 36 months from signing the contract, the development is not brought in line with the development permit/s applicable on site, the bank guarantee shall be forfeited in favour of the PA; the applicant’s development subject to the Stop Notice would have to stop operating and the temporary clearance for service provisions would be retracted. The PA would take direct action to remove the infringements at its convenience”.
The controversial fuel station was sealed off by the then Malta Environment and Planning Authority in 2008 because of illegal structures. It remained closed until March 2014, when following a change in policy by the Labour government, a concession for a 36-month temporary clearance was issued.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has denied accusations from the Nationalist Party that the temporary clearance was a pre-2013 electoral promise to the Gaffarena family.