The Planning Authority and the Environment and Resources Authority have restarted the evaluation of a planning permit to sanction massive illegalities at a Gozo soft stone quarry. An enforcement order to stop the illegalities has been pending for 20 years while operations continued unabated.

After years in which an application for the sanctioning of illegal quarrying at a site known as Tal-Misra─ž, in the limits of San Lawrenz, has been left ‘dormant’, a recent change in the management of the quarry has restarted the sanctioning process.

A spokesman for the Planning Authority confirmed that “in recent months the applicant showed an interest to resume the processing of the application”, despite the fact that an enforcement order to stop the illegal works has been in place since 1998.

Twenty years ago, after years of complaints, the Planning Authority issued a stop and enforcement order against brothers Randu and Joseph Zammit for “unauthorised excavations in the quarry”.

According to the order, still pending, the two brothers had extended their quarry both vertically and laterally without any studies and permits and their operations had overlapped into land which belonged to third parties, including public land.

The two brothers had also started dumping construction waste in other parts of the area, also illegally, and onto third-party properties including agricultural land.

The massive unlawful operations were so vast that, according to an internal ERA report, they have completely changed the topography of the natural valley passing through the site.

Sources close to the Planning Authority told this newspaper that despite the enforcement order, the quarry, including the cutting of soft stone from illegal parts of the complex continued and the authorities never intervened to stop the operations.

“Now, as it seems that the management of the quarry changed hands, the PA and ERA have started to reconsider the sanctioning of these illegalities,” the source said.

Asked whether it was true that illegalities at the quarry have been ongoing for 20 years, a spokesman for the Planning Authority confirmed that this was the case. “While it is correct to state that the enforcement notice has been active for almost 20 years, however, it must be pointed out that matters were delayed due to legal proceedings, which remained pending until October 2012 when a final court of appeal decision has been issued,” the PA spokesman said.

“Furthermore, the operator over the years commenced the backfilling operation addressing the illegal extension referred to in the enforcement notice.”

Asked why the PA had not intervened to stop the illegalities, the spokesman said that currently “further enforcement is on hold until the outcome of the planning application”.

Originally, the owners of the quarry had file their application to sanction the illegalities in 2008.

However, it was only earlier this year that they had shown interest in reviving their application which had been left “on hold” by the Planning Authority in view of “active enforcement action”.

ivan.camilleri@timesofmalta.com