The disposal of public land bang in the middle of a site for a proposed 26-floor hotel, overlooking the protected Wied Għomor, was administered properly, an internal investigation by the Lands Authority has concluded.
The probe was requested by the authority’s board after a Times of Malta report flagged how the call for tenders appeared to have been tailor-made for the applicants behind the proposed hotel, Tum Invest.
According to the authority’s internal audits directorate, headed by former ONE TV reporter and Labour Party mayor Charlene Muscat, the decision to put the land up for tender was commensurate with the authority’s role of administering government land in the best possible manner.
In effect, the authority would potentially be generating funds from a piece of unused land designated as a public open space, the report stated.
The report noted how the original proposal was for the land to be sold but the authority’s board instead opted for a temporary emphyteusis.
Documents from the Lands Authority reviewed by Times of Malta show it was Tum Invest’s Silvan Fenech who had petitioned for the land on the hotel site to be put up for tender.
The investigation report said the land, which is meant to be kept as a green area, would generate €312,000 over the 45-year temporary emphyteusis.
It said the contract disposing of the land should make it clear that it must be maintained as a green area and a public open space, and any change of use has to be approved by the Lands Authority.
The report says land surrounding the site put up for tender was already under two promise-of-sale agreements between its owner and Tum Invest.
Three bids were received for the tender, one of which was from Tum Invest and the other from the owner of the land under the promise of sale agreements.
Neither party put in the highest bid, but they have both since asked for a right of first refusal given their promise of sale agreements on the surrounding land, the report says. The proposed plans for the hotel have been criticised by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage for its “excessive” height and scale.
“The sheer scale and height of the proposed development would dwarf the surroundings, would dramatically impact on the landscape and would condition views of the valley,” the superintendence said.
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