The Planning Authority has set the ball rolling for Chloe Portelli, the daughter of Gozo’s construction magnate Joseph Portelli, to build her ‘agricultural store’ with idyllic views of Malta and Comino on 18 tumoli of land in Nadur, which her father bought a few years ago.
In its final recommendations to the Planning Board, which is set to decide on two separate but related development applications filed last year, the Authority is recommending that the 24-year-old ‘farmer’ should be allowed to have a store for her crops.
The recommendation comes despite numerous objections, including from the Environment and Resources Authority, the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and NGOs.
It flies in the face of illegalities by the Portellis over the past two years in which they completely ignored the law and built long and high new rubble walls without even applying for a permit – and they even got EU funds for it, The Shift has revealed.
The Planning Authority is recommending that all the illegalities in an area of high landscape value are to be sanctioned. According to case officer Raissa Spiteri, even though the rubble walls around and across the area were built without a permit, they ‘fit in with the Planning Authority’s rural policy guidelines’.
Objections have been filed by a large number of Nadur residents and by all major NGOs including Wirt Għawdex, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Nature Trust and Moviment Graffitti.
Portelli is currently the main sponsor of Nadur’s football team and considered one of the main benefactors to the community, including the Church. His son, Tristan, took his place as Nadur football club’s president last year.
The Nadur local council did not object to the development.
A classic case of abuse
The ‘Ġebel l-Aħmar’ illegal development on agricultural land on the outskirts of Nadur has been going on since at least 2018. It sits on the hills that overlook the Gozo Channel and covers such a large area that it can easily be seen from the ferry entering Mġarr Harbour.
Without an application for a permit submitted, large construction trucks owned by J. Portelli Projects were seen depositing rubble in the area in 2018, while dozens of workers, mostly migrants, were building endless lines of rubble walls.
Though this illegal work carried out in broad daylight was repeatedly reported to the Planning Authority, it only issued an enforcement order when all the walls were almost complete, residents told The Shift.
Soon after, Portelli’s daughter – Chloe – who is the general manager of her father’s Quaint chain of boutique hotels, applied for the sanctioning of the illegalities. Through a separate application, she also applied for a permit to build a 40 square metre ‘store’ on the land in question.
Chloe, who has never been seen tilling any land in the area, has registered herself as a farmer. This allows her to tick the required box in the Rural Policy to become eligible for an agricultural store.
The law of ‘build, apply and sanction’
The Planning Authority could not immediately grant Chloe Portelli permission to build her new ‘agricultural store’ as the original application was not in conformity with the policy in place.
According to the Agricultural Advisory Committee, the land which Portelli owns is not being tilled, one-third is not arable at all and the size of the land only permits a smaller store.
The solution was found sometime later through discussions with her architect, Emanuel Vella.
Through fresh plans submitted, she reduced the footprint of her ‘store’ to 20 square metres, while agricultural officers noted that the land started being farmed as some new trees had been planted in the area.
That was enough for the Planning Authority to recommend approval. The case is to be heard on 9 February.