Gozo construction magnate Joseph Portelli and his daughter Chloe have been ordered by the Planning Authority to dismantle the illegal ‘agricultural store’ they’d erected on pristine farmland outside Nadur that failed to respect the building permit terms.
Trucks and heavy machinery owned by Portelli have begun taking the structure apart after the Planning Authority issued enforcement orders, while construction workers have been seen removing parts of the illegal ‘store’ built on the 18 tumoli site situated below the iconic Kenuna tower in Nadur.
The structure, which the 24-year-old general manager of her father’s hotels, who registered herself as a farmer, built ostensibly as a store for her crops, was built using different materials and much larger than the size approved by the PA.
The ‘store’ was also built to an entirely different design to that outlined in the permit and was given an uncharacteristic sloping roof.
Following The Shift’s reports about these illegalities – and others, including the building of an illegal concrete platform, a large water reservoir with a pump room and the shifting of soil – the PA visited the site and issued its enforcement orders.
The source of the water for the reservoir has never been divulged by the developer.
Although Portelli’s architect, Emanuel Vella, has now filed a new development application, this time to sanction the already-built contraventions, work has also started on the removal of some of the breaches.
Industry sources told The Shift that “the fact that Portelli has started his retreat means that he has been given clear indications from the PA that, this time, no sanctioning will be approved. In these cases, the advice would be to better show some form of goodwill so that the authorities can close an eye on other things”.
A history of illegal development
The area, known as Ġebel l-Aħmar in Nadur, is considered one of the last remaining unspoilt agricultural stretches in Gozo. It was acquired by Portelli around three years ago.
After transferring the land to his two children, truckloads of rubble were dumped in the area and dozens of unskilled workers, mostly migrants, started building long, high rubble walls, even though no planning permits had been issued for the work. Once the PA issued the permit, it unlocked €200,000 in EU funds for the Portellis.
Despite media reports highlighting the abusive construction, and persistent objections from residents, the PA only acted to issue enforcement orders on the illicit works after the building of the walls was concluded.
As a result, the Portellis were able to seek a PA permit for the sanctioning of the illegalities – which the authorities approved despite the objections of ERA and all major local NGOs.
The PA later also justified giving its approval for the building of the ‘agricultural store,’ complete with windows and views across the Gozo channel, by arguing that the magnate’s daughter, Chloe, was a registered farmer and was entitled to have somewhere to store her crops.
Chloe Portelli was never seen on site and is not known to possess any skills relating to agriculture. She manages her father’s hotel chain.
Joseph Portelli, who has dominated the local construction scene over the past few years, is known to financially support both major political parties as well as individual candidates, including sitting MPs from both sides of the political divide.