Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg has been granted his long-awaited permit for a swimming pool in a field next to his house in an Outside Development Zone.

The Planning Commission on Friday gave Borg the green light to build a pool in a sensitive rural area in the hamlet of Santa Katerina in the limits of Rabat.

In its report recommending its approval, the Planning Directorate concluded that the project is acceptable because, unlike Borg’s previous attempts at obtaining a permit, it is sited on disturbed land. The pool would fit into an agricultural reservoir without taking up any further land.

The proposal also includes the reinstatement of soil levels in the field and the planting of 10 different species of trees and plants around the pool.

The 40-square metre, diamond-shaped pool is just over eight metres long and nearly five metres wide. The rest of the 58-square metre reservoir will be infilled and will include a pump room and a smaller reservoir.

'Policy bans pools'

Objector Noel Ciantar insisted during the hearing on Friday that the project is a redevelopment, not a new development. The application, he argued, does not meet policies in the North West Local Plan, which specifically disallows the development of swimming pools. 

But lawyer Ian Stafrace, on behalf of Borg, said the application is different to previous proposals, which had done away with a planned outdoor dining area, as well as facilities such as a shower and a water closet. He said it is a straightforward application which fit the swimming pool into a disused cesspit. 

Chairman Martin Camilleri said this proposal was completely different to the original one. He said the policy in question allows new developments which do not involve any fresh land take-up. The other two members agreed with this position and unanimously voted in favour of the application.  

Years-long attempt

Borg’s efforts for a permit have long been coming, ever since he acquired the field for €11,000. He had already been granted a permit in 2018 to turn the field into a swimming and landscaped recreation area. 

The Planning Commission had approved the project but an appeals court had overturned that decision, saying the proposal should be reconsidered by an appeals tribunal with a different composition.

Borg’s plans first drew attention a few months after he became parliamentary secretary for lands following the 2013 general election, when the  Planning Authority approved an outside development zone application to turn a dilapidated rural dwelling into his 400-square metre matrimonial home.

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