The controversy over Transport Minister Ian Borg’s planned swimming pool is back in court.
Mr Borg wants to build his pool in an agricultural field next to his house on the outskirts of Rabat.
Despite a court of appeal ruling last June that a permit for the pool was awarded under the wrong policy, the minister and the Planning Authority are contending that the permit is still valid.
But Dingli resident Noel Ciantar – who was responsible for the successful legal challenge against the permit – has gone back to court to contest the minister’s interpretation of the appeal court’s judgment.
Mr Ciantar is asking the same court of appeal to make it clear that it had annulled the permit and that the pool application will have to be reconsidered by a newly-composed tribunal, in line with the judgment.
The tribunal has refused to do so, arguing that the court did not expressly send the case back to it
The permit was originally issued by the PA’s Planning Commission and was subsequently upheld by the Environment and Planning Tribunal, which hears appeals over permits.
Mr Ciantar then challenged the permit in court. After a long-drawn-out legal battle, the court of appeal ruled that the PA had used the wrong policy (rural policy and design guidance) to issue the permit, a policy that did not apply to the area where Dr Borg lived.
The application should have been considered under a different policy, which did not permit the building of pools in rural settlements, the court decided.
Following the court’s decision, Mr Ciantar asked the tribunal to reconsider the case as ordered by the court. However, the tribunal, in a new decree, refused to do so, arguing that the court did not “expressly” send the case back to it.
The minister and the PA’s lawyers are now arguing that the court did not rule on the original permit but only annulled the tribunal’s decision. The permit is, therefore, still ‘valid’, they contend.
They argue that a lower court, such as the tribunal, cannot hear a case that has been decided by a higher court, in this case the court of appeal. Claiming violation of his rights, Mr Ciantar has now asked the court of appeal to make it clear that the swimming pool permit has been annulled.
Dr Borg’s residential development in the rural hamlet of Santa Katerina, in the limits of Rabat has been controversial since his debut on the local politics scene.
In 2014, he had been granted a permit to turn a dilapidated dwelling lying outside a development zone into a 400-square metre residence. The Ombudsman had later found that the permit should never have been issued because it was the result of a “grave error” by the PA and re-commended that it be revoked. This never happened.
A separate permit was later issued for a large swimming pool and outside dining area.