Planning Authority executive chairman Johann Buttigieg has “reservations” over a court judgment that could land the authority’s head of enforcement, a developer and an architect behind bars.
Judge Anna Felice has ruled that the demolition of a large part of the historic Villa St Ignatius in Balluta, St Julian’s, violated a court order, and called upon the Registrar of the Courts to initiate contempt of court proceedings against the PA’s enforcement chief, developer Paul Gauci and his architect, Stephen Vancell.
If found guilty, they could face a hefty fine and/or imprisonment.
Mr Buttigieg himself will not face contempt of court proceedings, but the court found that his actions throughout the affair had been “unacceptable”.
Asked for his reaction, Mr Buttigieg said he would not comment on the court proceedings, as they were still ongoing.
There is an issue of upholding public safety
He did, however, feel that “certain comments were premature”.
The villa, in Scicluna Street, is part of a larger property which once housed a Jesuit college. Workers demolished part of the villa over the course of nearly a week last November and December, just days after NGO Din L-Art Ħelwa applied for the building to be scheduled.
The PA took no action to halt the demolition and later issued a statement saying that the work had been carried out under a court order handed down in June. The court order, however, provided only for the removal of dangerous structures and required all work to be carried out under the supervision of a court-nominated architect, who has said he was never notified of any works.
Mr Buttigieg said that the PA had decided the villa was not scheduled and should be treated like any other building.
“The authority has its responsibilities when it comes to minimising danger.
“If we don’t meet those responsibilities, the authority, and myself personally, will be held criminally responsible.
“So there is an issue of upholding public safety,” he said.
Meanwhile the heritage NGO behind the court action has claimed that Mr Buttigieg failed to stop the work.
The NGO’s legal team has told the Times of Malta that the judgment and ongoing contempt of court proceedings had “enormous” ramifications, insisting “heads should roll”.
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