The Planning Authority is refusing to make available crucial correspondence on a controversial application aimed at turning a dilapidated rural room on the outskirts of Qala into a villa with a pool and a huge outdoor living space.

The PA’s case officer has recommended that the application be refused. However, the plans continue to be amended, in line with instructions given by the Planning Commission Board, to get the objections overturned and a permit issued at another meeting that is planned to be held next week.

Times of Malta has formally asked the authority for a copy of the correspondence between the applicant’s architect and the PA.

The correspondence was requested because it was never made available on the PA’s public online portal, as is normally the case, despite being quoted in the case officer’s report recommending refusal.

However, the PA has so far refused to make all the correspondence available. It accepted to publish just one of the four documents requested and declined to release the others.

“The requested documents are all correspondence with the architect/applicant and are self-explanatory in the Development Permit Application report,” the PA spokesman said.

Times of Malta persisted in its request, following legal advice received that any document quoted in the DPA report must be made public by the PA. But the authority has not budged.

The DPA report says that the proposal should be rejected outright. 

It also quotes documents in which, despite the objections of the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) and the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage, the applicant requested the PA to carry on discussing the application and reach a final decision.

Other correspondence, also not made public, quotes a notarial declaration, made by a Gozitan notary, declaring that the dilapidated room qualified to be considered as a residential unit, based on the death certificate of an old woman issued in 1921.

Preoccupied by the commission’s decision to ignore recommendation

Times of Malta has reported that Gozitan businessman Mark Agius, known as ta’ Dirjanu, had applied to turn the 31 square metre dilapidated room and adjacent 4,000 square metres of idyllic agricultural land into a 200-metre villa with unobstructed views, pool and massive outdoor area, in the zone known as Ta’ Muxi outside Qala.

Following objections received from NGOs, ERA, the Cultural Superintendence and the planning directorate, the application was deemed to be against planning rules and was recommended for refusal.

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However, in a surprising development, the ODZ Planning Commission Board, headed by architect Elizabeth Ellul, did not take on board the recommended refusal but instead chastised the PA’s case officer for not properly analysing the developer’s application.

According to Ms Ellul, the commission was “very concerned” that the plans had been recommended for refusal and requested the case officer to draw up conditions for a permit, with a view to approving the development during another meeting. 

Reacting to the U-turn on this application, Environment Minister Josè Herrera described the decision as “not on”.

He said on social media that he was “preoccupied by the Planning Commission’s decision to ignore, among everybody else, ERA’s recommendation reconversion of tiny room to villa in virgin territory limits of Qala”.

Despite all this opposition, Times of Malta has learned plans are being submitted to the PA. 

The Commission is therefore expected to go ahead and give the green light to the proposed development in a meeting scheduled for August 6.

Ivan.Camilleri@timesofmalta.com

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