Opposition MP Toni Bezzina was yesterday forced to withdraw a planning application outside a development zone in Rabat, in the wake of the backlash caused by a story published that same day in Labour’s newspaper Kullħadd.
Located a short distance away from Mdina at Telgħet is-Saqqajja, the plot of land consisted of an almond grove with a number of derelict World War II structures.
The application which had not been filed by the Agriculture and Fisheries Shadow minister himself but by his wife, comprised the restoration of wartime living quarters and an observation room.
The controversy erupted after it transpired that the development would also include a three-bedroom dwelling complete with a swimming pool, garages and driveway.
This part of the project had already prompted objections from the Environment and Resources Authority, as well as heritage NGO Din l-Art Ħelwa.
However, the application which had been submitted last November only came to the fore of the political agenda yesterday with the PL’s Sunday paper accusing the PN MP of planning to build an “ODZ villa”.
The story was especially damning in the wake of the PN’s recent environment policy, co-authored by Mr Bezzina, which called for stronger safeguards against projects on virgin land. Moreover, the policy lashed out at the government’s decision to build a university campus at Żonqor in Marsascala, for the simple reason that part of it protruded on a stretch of land outside the development zone.
The MP’s announcement on his intention to withdraw this controversial application came within hours of the story, in a statement released in early afternoon. While insisting he had no plans to build a villa, and that he submitted an application in line with existing policies, Mr Bezzina said he decided to abandon the project as he placed “political principles”, before other considerations.
In a prompt reaction, the Labour Party said that Mr Bezzina had only withdrawn the application because he had been caught red-handed, and not because he genuinely believed that he was in the wrong. While accusing the PN of hypocrisy on the environment, the PL warned that the case was far from over.
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