Architect and kebab businessman behind Manikata development defacing historic chapel

Planning Authority approval given by Elizabeth Ellul


Architect Justin Spiteri and businessman Keith Grima, the co-owner of the Posh Turkish kebab chain, are the developers behind a massive five-storey building in the hamlet of Manikata that has engulfed the locality’s century-old chapel, with the full blessing of the Planning Authority.

Public outrage spread like wildfire yesterday on social media, as independent political candidate Arnold Cassola posted a picture of the monstrosity in development in the once idyllic rural hamlet.

To add insult to injury, the developers ironically used the unique historic location to name their business venture as ‘Ville Chapelle’, which they are marketing as a unique development in a peaceful and tranquil rural setting.

Research by The Shift shows that this latest atrocity has been in the making since 2017, making step-by-step piecemeal progress through the planning process, all endorsed by PA officials and other government entities that are obliged to protect Malta’s heritage.

The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, which at first strongly objected to the application, suddenly became the Planning Authority’s accomplice, changing its tune after by stating that it was now satisfied with the changes made by the architect.

According to William Portelli, the PA’s case officer who recommended the granting of the permit, the Archdiocese of Malta – which had also objected to the development through architect Ramon Gauci – later retracted its reservations, with Portelli noting that the Curia’s architect had later submitted a letter stating that “…my clients find no objections to the current proposal”.

The quoted letter was not, however, uploaded on the authority’s server.

The Shift News is informed that the development, currently still in the construction stage but with units already being put up for sale, is covered by two development applications.

The main permit, PA10483/17, was endorsed in 2018 by the Planning Commission chaired by Elizabeth Ellul.

Ellul was later removed from the position and given a less important role at the PA following a number of controversial Outside Development Zone permit approvals by her board, including ODZ permits for in favour of construction magnate Joseph Portelli.

Submitted by Architect Justin Spiteri – who, ironically, is also a 50 per cent shareholder in the development being fronted by Juke Developments – the project will see three old single-storey vernacular buildings standing adjacent to the 1920 chapel, with a total surface area of less than 600 square metres, being turned into a massive, unsightly five- storey building with 22 units and 18 garages and including penthouses and maisonettes.

While the area’s height limitation is of three storeys, the PA, as is now customary, argued that since the development lies on a slope, the maximum allowable height should be measured from the slope’s highest point. Thus, from three storeys the building became five storeys.

At a minimum of €200,000 per unit, it is estimated that Spiteri and Grima will be making at least €4 million from the development, including construction costs.

The 2017 permit, however, was not enough for the Spiteri-Grima duo and in 2021 they applied to alter the building’s internal structure (PA03498/21), stuffing 22 units into the development instead of the originally-approved 17.

Once again, the PA expeditiously found no objection and approved the application as amended.

Apart from a 50 per cent shareholding in the development, architect 31-year-old Justin Spiteri, who resides in Balzan, owns half of Juke Developments and Juke Finishes, while also holding a minority stake in J2K Developers Ltd – all in partnership with Keith Grima.

His business partner from Zebbug, meanwhile, has a more colourful business portfolio.

In addition to being a co-owner in his family business, Ventur Auto Imports of Mosta, 36-year-old Grima is also a shareholder of the popular Posh Turkish kebab chain and is also involved in many property development companies including KG Developments, Faye Developments, K&E Company Ltd and others.


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Francis Said
Francis Said
1 month ago

It seems that budding architects at University are not given any lectures on professional ethics and aesthetics.
This is an outrageous development that engulfs the chapel. In Malta we are proud to have chapels and churches that enhance Malta’s historic characteristics.
Unfortunately this does not seem the rule nowadays.
Another example of the uglification of Malta due to greed and the new god. Making loads of money at all costs, without any consideration to moral principles and ethics.
The Chamber of Architects seems to have no wish or possibly knowledge what type of architecture should be allowed in the core of our villages, towns and cities.
SHAME to the profession and to your contribution to the continued uglification of our Country.

N Scerri
N Scerri
1 month ago
Reply to  Francis Said

Ezatt ghax il PA vera ghandha tort imma nkun perit hass hazin jtini jipprezentawli progett disgrace bhal dan fejn kappella storika.

1 month ago

What else can we say.
The Faculty of Architecture has become a Public Facility .
Re the Monster Block it is obvious that the Chapel’s Parvis will become the open air restaurant. Let us hope that the Chapel itself will not end up as the restaurant.
I saw this in Verona , it is scandalous.

Rudolf Grima
Rudolf Grima
1 month ago

Same people who were going to ruin Saqqajja Square and St Augustine Avenue in Rabat

Jonathan Sorrell
Jonathan Sorrell
1 month ago

Where are the watchdog custodians, the moral moderators of our community ? There seems to be a totally ruthless younger generation in the construction industry, hellbent on short-term profit and greed at any cost, completely disregarding the value of the island’s rich heritage, and that it is a country that belongs to all its people, and their children’s children – it is not theirs to pillage any longer. When a citizen is raped, there is public outrage and a mandatory custodial sentence, and rightly so. But when heritage and the environment are permanently raped, the perpetrators at worst are rapped on the knuckles, given a token fine, and allowed to freely carry on their irreversible destruction.

Maria C. Xuereb Maria
Maria C. Xuereb Maria
1 month ago

The new maltese oiligans. Hurra

Charles Bartolo
Charles Bartolo
1 month ago

hamalli bil-flus

Michael Borg
1 month ago

The first photo in this article shows a gap between the chapel and the new development. This is duplicitous, because there is NO GAP AT ALL between the Chapel and the new building. The new building’s wall is touching the Chapel.
Was the PA conned or is it conniving with the developer and the architect who should be sanctioned for misrepresentation of facts.

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