The Planning Authority (PA) has issued a raft of enforcement orders against Chloe Portelli – daughter of Gozitan construction magnate Joseph Portelli – following several new illegalities connected to her 18 tumoli of agricultural land in Nadur, situated beneath the idyllic Kenuna Tower.
The 24-year-old general manager of a chain of hotels owned by her father, who a few years ago ‘registered’ as a farmer to access ‘benefits and rights’ to develop her ‘farm’, is being accused, once again, of ignoring the terms of a permit issued recently to build a small agricultural store on her holding.
Instead of following the approved design, Chloe ‘the Farmer’, as she has become known among her friends, erected the structure with a Nordic-style sloping roof, rather than the approved, flat-roofed style usually used to hold farmers’ crops and approved in her permit.
She has also embellished the ‘store’ – overlooking uninterrupted sea and country views of the Gozo channel – with a concrete platform not included in the original PA permit, and utilized concrete bricks instead of stone.
Her architect, Emmanuel Vella, has also been served with the PA’s enforcement notice. Still, the action taken by the authorities appears to have had little or no effect, and it fails to order the magnate’s daughter to remove the illegalities.
New enforcements were also issued against an illegal underground water reservoir, the filling of certain areas with soil and the levelling-off parts of the tenement against the terms of the original permits.
The PA is still investigating other irregularities in the area and could issue further enforcement notices shortly.
Build first, sanction later
Chloe Portelli’s latest defiance of planning laws forms part of a series of breaches that have been going on for at least two years, and which have resulted in the visual change of large tracts of agricultural terraced fields around Nadur’s approach.
Portelli – whose father is known for his own issues with respecting planning laws as well as for the fact that he offers regular ‘support’ to both Malta’s main political parties and their politicians – has seen her agricultural store project embroiled in controversy from its earliest days.
Following the acquisition of the land by her father, which he then passed on to his daughter, a series of new, high and long rubble walls were built illegally, completely altering the way the area looks, even from as far away as Mgarr harbour.
Although the construction of the illegal walls took months to complete, the PA only acted when all the work had been finished.
However, as soon as the work was over, Portelli filed a planning development application to sanction the illegalities and build an agricultural store in the area.
While ERA and several NGO’s objected to the sanctioning, arguing that this was the beginning of a slow, piecemeal process to turn the property into a residential farmhouse – a ploy that has been noted and criticized before in many other parts of the island – the PA still issued the permit.
Portelli has now filed two new applications – PA23892/21 and PA4192/21 to, once again, ask the PA to sanction what has been built illegally.
In the past, the PA, as permitted by its own laws, used to take direct action to demolish illegalities and reinstate areas abused by illegal developers, followed by remedial action in court.
This is now rarely ever done.
Chloe’s father, Joseph, has also had his own breaches of planning rules bypassed by the authorities. His illegal batching plant, built on public land in Kercem, is still in operation despite several enforcement orders.
Instead, his company, Prax Concrete Ltd, is allowed to participate in public tenders, paid millions of euros from taxpayers’ funds, and is even awarded government direct orders.
The Building and Construction Agency – a newly established public authority supposed to regulate the construction industry – is headed by Portelli’s architect Maria Schembri Grima. She was appointed by Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia.
The PN opposition, represented on the BCA’s board, has so far failed to comment on the BCA Chair’s apparent conflict of interest.