Updated at 3.15pm with PN and Church statements
Qala mayor Paul Buttigieg has said he will appeal a controversial decision to allow a tiny rural ruin to be turned into a large villa.
"This project will have a detrimental impact on the environment. When we have come together as a council and a community in the past, we have managed to overcome projects like this,” the Labour mayor said.
Mr Buttigieg said the project should never have been given approval and vowed to not give up.
In a vote on Thursday, the Planning Authoriy overturned a recommendation not to approve the controversial development.
There have been particular questions around why the government appointed representative, Clayton Bartolo, was among those who voted in favour. Mr Bartolo defended his voting decision on Friday.
He was joined by PA Board members Elizabeth Ellul, Duncan Mifsud, Jacqueline Gili, Joseph Brincat, Karl Attard and Alfred Pule.
PA chairman Vincent Cassar, Opposition MP Marthese Portelli, ERA chairman Victor Axiaq and NGO representative Annick Bonello Cassar, all voted against.
The decision has been greeted with outrage, including by a number of Labour Party members.
Shortly after the Planning Authority gave the thumbs up to the development on, former PL general secretary Jason Micallef took to Facebook to express his dismay.
“What a disgrace. Shameless! This government and the absolute majority that elected it deserves better than this. These atrocities must stop before it becomes too late,” he wrote.
He said the internal structures of the Labour Party had to lobby the government against such “strange” decisions.
“If this does not happen, then the PL itself will be allowing great harm to be done to this Labour government,” he said.
And in a subsequent post on Friday morning, Mr Micallef said he had yet to meet a Labour Party supporter, or representative in any committee or party strucutre that was not disappointed with the decision.
Mr Micallef was not alone. Former prime minister and current MEP Alfred Sant also called on the PA to explain its decision.
“If this explanation is not convincing, then doubts – including my own – will arise over whether the authority is truly serving its functions properly,” he wrote.
The Prime Minister’s former special envoy to the EU, Cyrus Engerer said the decision was “shocking and unacceptable.”
Ruining Qala’s landscape and fields, he wrote on Facebook, could not be taken lightly.
“How could anyone vote for this project? How could the Labour Party ask its representative to vote in favour?” He asked.
Mr Engerer said the project created a precedent. It also undermines the PL’s criticism of a past Nationalist government decision to extend development boundaries into the ODZ.
“This argument can no longer be used with any credibility,” he wrote, adding the hashtag #NotInMyName.
PN says decision violates existing policies
In a statement issued on Friday, the Nationalist Party said the decision to approve the villa went against an existing PA policy.
Referring to the Rural Policy and Design Guidance of 2014, the PN said the applicants behind the villa had failed to prove that the derelict countryside building had once been a dwelling. This was further compounded by the fact that the current building did not meet the criteria to be considered developable.
In voting for the project, the PA board had also completely ignored the objections raised by the Environment and Resources Authority and the Superintendance for Cultural Heritage.
The PN’s Marthese Portelli was one of just four board members to give the application the thumbs down.
Church commission calls for review of policies
The Church’s environment commission also reacted to the project’s approval, saying that these decisions seemed to be guided by those eager to “fatten their own pockets”.
The commission has long been calling for a reform of the PA’s policies on the matter, and on Friday said the current state of play was leading to an environemntal catastrophe.
The government, and the Parliament that approves such policies, could not shirk responsibility on these matter.
The ball, the church commission said, was in their court.