Transport Minister Ian Borg and his wife Rachelle will once again have to stall their plan to build a swimming pool at their Outside Development Zone (ODZ) residence in the limits of Rabat, as a new appeal has been filed against the latest permit granted by the Planning Authority.
Since 2015, the Minister, who until a few weeks ago was responsible for the PA, made a series of attempts to turn an agricultural field situated in the idyllic rural setting of the Santa Katerina hamlet into an outdoor dining area and a swimming pool adjacent to his home built thanks to another controversial permit that was condemned by the Ombudsman.
Yet, it seems that the PA, as well as the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, still went out of their way to accommodate the Minister and issued another controversial permit for the pool area in ODZ last summer.
The Court ruled against it, saying the PA had applied the wrong policy in order to give Minister Borg the green light.
As if this were not enough, the Court had to intervene a second time to clarify that the original permit was null and void as the Minister, a lawyer by profession, had tried to give a different interpretation of the court’s decision.
Yet, the Minister was having none of it. And a few weeks ago, the PA once again found reason to give Borg a new permit to build his swimming pool.
The PA accepted the Minister’s new application on the same field, arguing that he would now use an existing reservoir in the field for his pool, implying no agricultural land would be developed.
The PA adopted the argument put forward by the Minister’s lawyer, former PA CEO Ian Stafrace, and approved the permit.
A new appeal has now been filed by Dingli resident Noel Ciantar – the same person who had stopped the Minister’s attempts to have a swimming pool in an agricultural area. He is saying that the PA is wrong this time too.
Quoting from decisions by both the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal and the Court, Ciantar is insisting that the planning policy related to small rural settlements like Santa Katerina – the North West Local Plan – does not allow such permits.
Ciantar also asked the same Tribunal to make sure that the latest permit issued by the PA is suspended, until a final decision on its revocation is made.
Minister Borg has been embroiled in the saga over his 400 square metre ODZ home since his entry into politics in 2013.
Soon after being appointed parliamentary secretary by disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Borg took over a dilapidated rural building in Santa Katerina using controversial methods contested by the original owners of the rural dwelling.
Borg obtained the permit for his matrimonial home by applying under someone else’s name. The PA should have never issued the permit, the Ombudsman had concluded.
Disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had ignored the Ombudsman’s decision and the young Minister pushed further, determined to get his pool on agricultural land he acquired from a farmer for only €12,000.