The Gozo Ministry has obtained the Planning Authority’s swift consent to carry out massive construction works at the Gozo Sports Complex not covered by the original permit granted for an Olympic-size pool.
The Shift had revealed that when work started on the pool on a plot of land adjacent to the Sports Complex, neighbours were surprised to see the Complex itself dismantled.
A spokesman for the Planning Authority told The Shift that while the original Natatorium permit, issued in 2017, covered a plot of land adjacent to the Sports Complex, ‘unplanned’ works on the total dismantling and excavation of the Sports Complex itself are being carried out through an ‘urgent’ Dangerous Structures application filed by the Gozo Ministry.
The new permit covers the removal of the metal decking and structure over the Sports hall as “its integrity was compromised from severe weather”. The application also requested the “removal of unsound facade to allow for underpinning through the use of piles”.
No details were given on how the structures had suddenly become “unsound” and when “severe weather” had compromised the sports hall. The Sports Complex had recently been renovated with the support of EU funds.
Regular users of the Sports Complex told The Shift they were never informed the facilities were not safe.
Spiralling costs are good business
The first permit for the Gozo Natatorium project was approved 10 years ago – in 2011.
A public tender based on the latest permit issued in 2017 was awarded to a private consortium formed by Gozo construction magnate Joseph Portelli and his associates, and Charles Polidano (ic-Caqnu) who is supposed to be excluded from government projects due to an outstanding tax bill of over €40 million.
The tender was awarded at a cost of €9 million. Due to the sudden changes in plans, as these now include a total redevelopment of the original Sports Complex, the project is expected to cost taxpayers additional millions – how much, exactly, is unclear as the government will not say.
Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri has ignored questions on the matter, preferring to announce to his constituents on social media that he was a doer, moving a project forward that had been stalled for years.
Negative response from Sports Complex users
As Gozitan swimming enthusiasts praise the Minister and the government for taking action on a long-awaited electoral pledge, hundreds of users of the Sports Complex have been left out in the cold, with nowhere to practise their sports.
Some have even complained about the closure of the Sports Complex without adequate notice, while others pointed out that some sports equipment was also damaged “in a rush by the contractors to tear down the sports hall”.
Complaining that they were not even given any notice to remove their personal belongings in lockers inside the complex, some said they are requesting compensation from the Gozo Ministry. They also raised the need for alternative premises to continue their training.