Ballut Blocks has sent this statement as a Right of Reply on The Shift’s article on the controversial development project in ODZ at Fomm ir-Riħ, on which the Planning Authority received over 300 objections. We are publishing the company’s reply sent in by its lawyer in full even though some of the statements made in the Right of Reply are not compliant with the law as they assert things that The Shift did not state. The Shift addresses these points in a separate article.
“I write under the instructions of Ballut Blocks Limited with reference to the article “Mġarr Council has not objected to Fomm ir-Riħ project by Mayor’s cousin”, published on theshiftnews.com on the 25 January 2020.
On behalf of my clients, I am hereby exercising the right of reply in terms of Article 15 of the Media and Defamation Act.
I do not wish to go into the technicalities of the outline development application submitted by my clients, however, you may wish to note that the application was prepared and submitted by one of the most reputable firms of architects on the Island, who are well cognizant of the applicable planning policies. To this extent, any assertion to the effect that clients’ application is not compliant with the applicable policies is rebutted as altogether unfounded in fact and at law.
Your article suggests that the Mgarr Local Council did not file an objection to the application in question owing to the fact that the Mayor is related to the shareholders of Ballut Blocks Limited. Firstly, it must be pointed out that your article was published before the expiry of the deadline for the submission of representations and, to this extent, any conclusion that you may have drawn was clearly premature.
Secondly, you seem to be unaware of the fact that in terms of L.N. 162/2016, Local Councils, within whose boundaries an application is located, qualify as external consultees who must be consulted during the processing of a development application, independently of whether they would have filed a representation within the statutory term or otherwise. To this extent, your insinuation that there may be some form of collusion between clients and the Mgarr Local Council is altogether baseless and libellous.
Your article incorrectly states that, “In 2003, the Vella brothers, who had been running the family businesses selling tiles and blocks hand in hand since 1950, split. Halmann Vella was set up and run by Vincent Vella and his family, while his brothers continued to run Ballut Blocks.” The shareholders of Ballut Blocks Limited were never involved in the Halmann group. Similarly, the shareholders of Halmann group never had any involvement in Ballut Blocks. The shareholders of Ballut Blocks were extraneous to the 2003 division which you mention in your article. A simple search on the Registry of Companies website would have sufficed to enable you to get your facts right.
Finally, I wish to emphasise that there is no involvement in the Fomm ir-Rih estate by any third party who is not a current shareholder of the Ballut Blocks group. Hence all the various references in your article to the Hal Mann Vella Group and to (Finance) Minister (Edward) Scicluna are altogether superfluous and libellous. There are eight shareholders in Cottonera Waterfront Group plc, hence, I can see no reason to single out the ones mentioned in your article other than to give a false impression of some form of association, which does not exist. That, in terms of the Media and Defamation Act is pure and simple libel.
In term of Article 15(1) of the Media and Defamation Act, I am hereby formally calling upon you to publish this reply forthwith on www.theshiftnews.com giving it the same prominence of your aforementioned article.
My clients are hereby reserving their rights in terms of the Media and Defamation Act to proceed judicially without further notice.”