Gozo’s picturesque ta’ Żejta valley to be dwarfed by Joseph Portelli company’s five-storey block

Planning Authority once again disregards push back against Portelli-linked projects from residents, NGOs

 

Residents from the areas near ta’ Żejta valley in Gozo have expressed their frustration over the Planning Authority’s (PA) approval for the construction of a five-storey apartment block in an ecologically sensitive area, despite dozens of objections and the site’s dubious planning history.

The new development is a project being fronted by one of Gozitan developer Joseph Portelli’s companies.

The project in ta’ Żejta valley will consist of 54 apartments, including penthouses with private pools, and a total of 41 garages. The site on which the project is to be built is largely vacant, with the exception of an unfinished building that was constructed illegally in the 90s.

A photo of the illegal, unfinished building which is set to be replaced by Portelli’s project

According to the plans approved by the PA (PA/551/22), the unfinished building is set to be demolished and the finished project is expected to take up surrounding vacant land, adding 1,823sqm to the urban footprint.

The company behind the development is PRA Construction Ltd, which is owned by Portelli and his associates Daniel Refalo and Mark Agius. The application form submitted to the PA lists Thomas Grima, PRA Construction Ltd’s operations manager, as the site’s owner. The application was later updated to list Agius as the applicant.

Locals familiar with the area reached out to The Shift to explain how the vacant building on the spot of Portelli’s approved development had stood there for decades because of its various planning issues. They expressed frustration over how quickly Portelli and his associates were allowed to proceed with their plans, in a matter of mere months.

An enforcement notice from 1996 shows that the owner of the site at the time, Ignatius Attard, had carried out works that were not a part of the approved plans. In 1990 Attard had obtained permission to build basement garages and two flats, in addition to the one garage and flat that had already been built.

Now, Attard’s past illegal development of the site is set to be outdone by a much larger project that attracted dozens of objections during the public consultation process carried out in February and March, with particular concerns being expressed about the watercourse that lies right in front of the project.

Concept art of Portelli’s project

Multiple objections submitted by the general public accused the developers of having already sold the entire project before permits had even been issued. The accusation was not referred to in the PA case officer’s report, which recommended the project for approval and generally dismissed objectors’ concerns. The Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) did not object to the project either.

The same tactic was used with respect to Portelli’s project on the site of the abandoned Jerma Hotel in Marsaskala, and two parallel residential developments in Qrendi. While the two Qrendi developments were approved, the Jerma project is being openly advertised and sold without any planning permits in hand.

The PA has proven remarkably permissive with Portelli-linked projects, even when they are objected to en masse – one other example, besides ta’ Żejta and Qrendi, was the Authority’s approval of a massive 125 apartment block just 300 metres from the cliffs of Sannat, or its sanctioning of an illegally built pool in Qala.

Other objectors raised concerns over the area’s ecological sensitivity and the fact that it is highly prone to flooding, with one particular objector even posting pictures to prove their point.

One of the photos submitted by objectors showing what the area looks like when it rains

NGOs Moviment Graffitti and Din L-Art Ħelwa had also filed objections to the project. Besides raising similar concerns about flooding, Moviment Graffitti also raised concerns about how the development and its immediate consequences would impact agriculture and the area’s flora and fauna.

Din L-Art Ħelwa pointed out that the development in question “does not suit the character and distinctness of the streetscape” and that the building’s height “is completely out of context with its surroundings”.

Architect Joanna Spiteri Staines had even submitted a detailed, 20-page report detailing how the planning application would breach policies in the Local Plan for the area.

Spiteri Staines’ submission included references to how the applicants failed to include the required analysis of the streetscape and a photographic survey. The architect also emphasised how the development would generate a “12.3m high blank party wall of a length of circa 45m overlooking the back garden of the neighbouring villa”.

“There is no high architectural design quality and no attention given to any kind of massing. This is one large five-storey high block on the edge of an extremely sensitive area which fails to relate to the very sensitive context of one of the most important water catchment areas of all Gozo,” the architect added.

                           
                               
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KLAUS
KLAUS
1 month ago

How low has embarrassing PA sunk?
Whenever you think it can’t get any more disgraceful, worse and more scurrilous,
the PA proves us wrong. Again and again.

It makes you dizzy just watching it, so much are the heads twisted.
Presumably, the big hands remain stretched out wide?

Don’t forget: they are working for the Maltese and are paid by our tax money.

Mick
Mick
1 month ago

Parasites and philistines comes to mind initially, followed by liars, crooks, hypocrites, thieves,traitors, and of course Mafia.

Greed
Greed
1 month ago

And still the people say nothing and few stand up to be counted. At this rate JP will have his way and concrete the hole (PUN intended) islands then move abroad and destroy another country

D M Briffa
D M Briffa
1 month ago

With a bit of luck, Joseph Porrtelli, this project will come back and bite you: why did you back it when it lost your godfathers so much money? Yes, it’s doomed to fail. It’s going to cost your godfathers a shed-load of money. Bad luck. Await the consequences. They were obvious to me. And I’m very simple. But you, Joseph Portelli, were blind to them. Why?

Jon
Jon
1 month ago

Maltese and gozitans should not buy any properties built by this developer.

M.Galea
M.Galea
1 month ago
Reply to  Jon

But they do! They are happy taking loans to buy the garbage holes! U niftahru wkoll!

John
John
1 month ago
Reply to  Jon

While not supporting at all, in any way, JP and associates and their official supporters in Gozo and Malta I have some comments.
I occasionally take the rather well-maintained cemetery road from Xaghra to Rabat enjoying, in the morning, the magnificent view of Rabat and the Citadelle.
Going down to Rabat, one finds out the eyesore derelict illegal building which should have been demolished long ago at the initiative of MEPA.
As I can remember there was, going up from the derelict building on the very badly maintained road (Rabat), 5 or some years ago an advertisement for 15 or 17 building lots on a very limited area. The advertisement disappeared after a while.
I believe that the crossroad should be made into a park left to the ducks provided that they are left with enough vital water already pumped by the neighboring farmers.
Enjoy!

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