The massive, ongoing €8 million infrastructural project in a sensitive geological area in the midst of the countryside to rebuild one of Gozo’s major arterial roads – joining Nadur to Mgarr – is not covered by a Planning Authority permit, The Shift can reveal.
Investigations by this portal reveal that the Ministry for Gozo, which is responsible for the road works, didn’t even apply for a permit, not even through a minor Development Notification Order (DNO).
As a result, the Planning Authority (PA) does not know the name of the architect responsible for the project which has been ongoing for the past three years.
The Shift asked the Planning Authority for the plans of the ongoing roadworks and to give details on when it issued the development permit necessary for the Gozo Ministry to commence works on Triq l-Imgarr, but several requests were ignored.
When the Planning Authority finally replied, following reminders, a spokesman admitted to The Shift that there is no permit for these works.
Justifying this ‘strange’ stance, the spokesman added that, according to the PA, a permit was not really required, quoting a new subsidiary legislation published in 2016 which exempts the Ministry from requiring a permit for such works.
Pressed to state who is the architect overseeing the works and to give the DNO notification number required for the commencement of works – a normal procedure required for even a small intervention in a private residence – the PA admitted that it does not have this information as the Ministry did not inform the authority about these works.
“In relation to roadworks, Class 3 of the Development Notification Order (DNO) of 2016 (S.L. 552.08) exempts ‘Government agencies, Local Councils and other entities appointed thereby’ from the requirement to obtain development permission from the Planning Authority,” the PA spokesman said.
“The same Class does not require the entity to submit a notification to the Planning Authority,” he explained.
“In this case, the works are being carried out by the Ministry for Gozo. Since no notification to the Planning Authority is required, there is no “applicant”, and the Authority does not have information on who is the perit in charge,” the spokesman continued.
News that the massive ongoing road works are not covered by a permit has stunned planning experts and architects consulted by The Shift.
While just a few weeks ago, the Gozo Minister, Clint Camilleri, claimed that the ongoing works are “a first for Gozo” for the techniques being used, including the need for piles dug 22 metres into the ground of a very sensitive area and for stilts built over arable farmland to elevate the road, experts say they can’t understand how the PA can justify allowing this type of work without a permit.
“This is not on, and something must be really wrong,” a road architect said.
“Triq l-Imgarr is built on clay and any intervention required many studies for such a sensitive geological area. ERA should even have given its green light before any intervention started. If the PA really believes that this type of work does not require a permit, then we are living on a different planet,” an expert said.
“If they (the PA and ERA) have not even been notified one can only imagine how many onsite inspections they carried to verify that no damage was being done to the surroundings,” a seasoned architect said.
Minister says all permits were in place
Last August, just a few days before the annual Santa Maria weekend, Minister Camilleri went to visit the ongoing works, accompanied by ‘friendly’ media, to state that the roadworks, which began in September 2018, were almost ready.
The road is still unusable to today.
According to state broadcaster PBS, which reported the visit with prominence, Minister Camilleri – an architect by profession – said that prior to the commencement of works all the necessary permits were issued by the Planning Authority.
This, however, appears to be untrue – as confirmed by the Planning Authority.
Meanwhile, The Shift can also reveal that the architect responsible for the works, commissioned directly by the Minister through a direct order, is Perit Andrew Ellul – husband of the former controversial Chair of the PA commission responsible for ODZ permits, Elizabeth Ellul. The couple have a summer residence just a short walk from the ongoing works, in Nadur.
Contacted by The Shift, Architect Ellul confirmed that he was responsible for the roadworks. However, when asked to state whether the ongoing works are covered by a planning permit, Mr Ellul got agitated and hung up.
“Sorry I don’t know who you are, and I don’t speak to the media,” Perit Ellul said.
Works on the re-building of the main road leading to Nadur started in 2018 when Justyne Caruana was responsible for the Gozo Ministry.
She had allocated the works to Perit Adrian Mifsud – a geological expert – due to the sensitivity of the area where the works were to take place.
However, shortly after Camilleri replaced Caruana – who was forced to resign following the outing of her husband’s close relationship with businessman Yorgen Fenech – the new Gozo minister halted the works and took architect Mifsud off the project.
Instead, he appointed Perit Ellul through another direct order.