Activist group and Local Council demand revocation of permit for 63-apartment block that comes as the last stage of a massive residential project suffocating Qala
Moviment Graffitti and the Qala Local Council, with the full support of Mayor Paul Buttigieg, have initiated legal proceedings with the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal to revoke the permit to construct a 63-apartment block in Ta’ Kassja, Qala. This comes as the last phase of a residential project of more than 160 apartments covering a swath of land larger than 3 football grounds in an area known Ta’ Għar Boffa. The land taken by the development also protrudes significantly beyond the development zone boundaries.
The decision to grant the permit is being appealed on the grounds that the last application to be approved forms part of a much larger project that was split up into 4 different stages over a 2-year period. This was done to fool people into thinking that these were separate, unrelated development applications filed under four different applicant names – all of which are connected to Joseph Portelli, including his daughter Chloe Portelli. This piecemeal approach enabled J Portelli Projects, the brains behind the massive residential project, to circumvent and evade the scrutiny that a project of such dimensions requires to assess its cumulative impact.
Contradictory declarations were also made by the applicants with regards to land ownership when the applications were filed. In two of the applications, the applicants declared that they were the sole owner of the entire land indicated on the site plan, a claim that was never verified.
A spokesperson for the group explained that this deception led to the project being given the green light. The fact that the development, of which around 100 apartments have already been built, was presented in different stages also paved the way for the gradual proliferation of the development onto ODZ land. This reveals the loopholes that exist in our planning policies and how they are shamelessly abused to serve the interests of some individuals, with great repercussions on our environment and communities.
The land in question is also one of the lands in Gozo registered on behalf of a medieval foundation that is basing its claims on the land on notarial deeds that go all the way back to the 17th century. Many Gozitan families are being threatened with eviction from their homes unless they fork out substantial amounts of money. Several demands asking for the Gozo landgrab saga to be investigated and demanding justice for affected residents have so far fallen on deaf ears and have been ignored by the authorities.
Moviment Graffitti appealed to the public’s goodwill in its efforts to collect the funds needed to cover the legal expenses related to the EPRT appeal and was joined by the Qala Local Council, which will be contributing parts of the expenses. The public heeded the call and voiced its anger at how these flagrant planning abuses have become everyday occurrences. Moviment Graffitti and the Local Council thank the public and are committed to ensuring that the people’s indignation at the current state of affairs is heeded to by the concerned authorities.