Qrendi developments linked with Joseph Portelli up for sale despite lack of permits

Building and Construction Authority chairperson, Maria Schembri Grima, is the applicant’s architect


Two pending development applications filed by a company in which Gozitan developer Joseph Portelli is a shareholder are linked with an undeveloped site that is already being marketed for sale, in spite of the fact that final approval from the Planning Authority (PA) has not yet been issued.

The architect fronting both applications is the chairperson of the Building and Construction Authority, Maria Schembri Grima, who The Shift had already questioned over her business links with Portelli’s projects when she was appointed as Chair of the BCA’s board last year.

An investigation by The Shift has revealed that the company in question, CF Developers Ltd, filed two applications, PA/8753/21 and PA/8754/21, to build two residential complexes on undeveloped plots of land in Qrendi, situated between Triq it-Tabib Gregorio Mifsud and Triq Dun Nerik Mahoney.

The site plan for PA/8753/21.

While both applications were recommended for approval by the PA’s case officers, neither of them have yet been decided on by the PA’s board, meaning that no permit has officially been issued.

This has not stopped a Facebook page named Direct Properties from advertising the project to “investors” as early as 1 January, months before the board hearing for either permit is actually scheduled.

The advert promotes the site on Direct Properties’ Facebook page.

A site visit carried out by The Shift on Friday confirmed that the image posted by the page corresponds to the site in which the two applications filed by CF Developers Ltd seek to build residential complexes.

In May last year, the Chair of the Building and Construction Authority Maria Schembri Grima downplayed the large number of development projects entrusted to her through Portelli’s business ventures, initially denying that Portelli was her client before telling The Shift she has “lots of clients”.

Schembri Grima had dismissed questions about a potential conflict of interest by stating that her role as chairperson of an entity meant to regulate the sector is “non-executive”.

CF Developers Ltd consists of four other shareholders besides Portelli – Francis Agius, Clifton Cassar, Stephen Falzon and Duncan Micallef. The company was registered in July 2020.

PA/8753/21 lays out plans for excavation and construction of 50 garages and 56 residential units spread out on four floors including penthouses featuring jacuzzis and pools. The site area covers a total of 1,640sqm.

A photo taken during The Shift’s site visit, showing the same buildings in the background of the plot advertised by Direct Properties from a different angle.

“The proposal includes the construction of two blocks of apartments, one on each frontage, having their backyards wall in common. The proposed residential development consists of 11 one-bedroom units, 21 two-bedroom units and 24 three-bedroom units, for a total of 56 residential units,” the case officer’s report reads.

The final approval of the application is to be discussed by the PA’s board on 6 May.

As for PA/8754/21, the applicants seek to develop a four-storey apartment building featuring eight garages at ground floor level, pools, 11 apartments and two penthouses. The site area covers a total of 346sqm.

Environmental NGO Din L-Art Ħelwa filed a representation arguing that the proposed development “does not suit the character and distinctness of this traditional streetscape”, further adding that it “compromises the existing traditional low-lying skyline” in the area.

The decision to be taken by the PA’s board is scheduled for 26 April.

The Portelli-PA pipeline

The investigation about the developments in Qrendi is not the first documented instance in which development projects linked with Portelli were marketed before the PA had even come around to formally approving them.

In April last year, The Shift published an investigation outlining how flyers promoting a Portelli project in the Ta’ Ċenċ cliffs area in Gozo, amounting to a total of 125 residential units split into three applications, were being used to sell flats before the permit for the block was issued.

REVEALED: Joseph Portelli’s project for 125 flats near international Important Bird Area in Gozo

The final application related to that project was approved by the PA on 11 March despite significant opposition to the project, including objections filed by environmental NGOs Moviment Graffitti and Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar.

The project, which was described as a “monstrosity”, was approved a week after Portelli organised a private dinner in Gozo to which Prime Minister Robert Abela was invited as guest of honour.

The following day, the Labour party held a campaign fundraising telethon through which a record €215,000 was collected from Gozo alone.


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2 years ago

L applications li kien hemm pending f Ghawdex, wara l elezzjoni beda t thaffir! Zewg gzejjer gabuhom mizbliet! Imma l poplu accetta dan kollu ghax qed jinvesti! Poplu rghib daqs kullhadd! M hawnx fejqan! Izjed min dan kuljum! Nammira lil dawk li qed jippakjaw u jitilqu min dan l pajjiz! Pajjiz kruha ta bini ma kullimiien, odz mcapsa b konkos u tarmac u ftuh ta toroq , sehtu kullimkien! Dawn n nies ms jafux jisthu! Nisimghu li l politici zviluppaturi huma nnifishom u nibqghu nirrepetu l l izviluppaturi qed jikmandaw jew li qed jaghtu l flus lil partiti! Please ieqfu kunu boloh! L politici qeghdin jinhbew wara isem l izviluppatur! They are all in it together!

Stephen Abela
Stephen Abela
2 years ago
Reply to  M.Galea

Naqbel kwasi f’kollox fuq dak li ktibt. Il-Poplu ghandu il-Gvern li haqqu u in nies Maltin u ghawdxi kellho jitwikkeww biehom, Imma jekk jitilqu minn ghawn, il wirt taghhom jinqered. Il kultura u il-futur ta din in nazzjon hijja ikkundannat ghal medjokrita ipprezentata fuq gorbog tas siment!

2 years ago

The King of Concrete of Gozo Invades Qrendi. Portelli’s invasion of Malta goes on Fast Forward. Where is Abela’s fake promise on ODZ and all that crap. If this was part of his OATH of Office he has his first perjury on the list.

2 years ago

Duncan Micallef happens to be a fan of car racing. No wonder he praised the corrupt Labour Government when they proposed a racing track in Hal Far. He s now been rewarded with this uglification of Qrendi.

2 years ago

Is the Qrendi Local Council Mayor anywhere to be seen please? Not even a representation against this dull project has been filed by the Labour local council.

2 years ago

Morru araw l applikazzjonijiet li hemm fl ghelieqi ghal kmamar u kollha jigu approved. U dawn qed jinbnew kollha biex jinkrew. Tal misthijaaaaaa. L aqwa l ispazji miftuhin!!

Gordon Cook
Gordon Cook
2 years ago

The sheer arrogance of these people is incredible. The planning authority is just a rubber stamping operation for them.

Stephen ABELA
Stephen ABELA
2 years ago
Reply to  Gordon Cook

Planning authority is the only institution in Malta which is more to blame than the government itself. Its not just a rubber stamp, it’s the main culprit

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