Warehouses leased by Heritage Malta for €1.2 million subject to PA enforcement

Former Culture Minister Jose’ Herrera insists this happened under Minister Owen Bonnici

 

A private warehouse complex that Heritage Malta is leasing through a €1.2 million direct order is marred with irregularities and has been the subject of an enforcement order issued by the Planning Authority (PA) since 2017.

The Shift revealed last week that Alfaran Trailers Maintenance and Logistics Services Ltd is being paid some €200,000 a year for the lease of five large garages in the Ħal Far industrial estate.

The information was published in the Government Gazette but it was unclear who the beneficiaries of the direct order were until the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation filed a Freedom of Information request.

Further research into the warehouses by The Shift shows that the complex contains several breaches of planning laws noted by the Planning Authority in an enforcement order still in place, and that the warehouses are built on public land allocated to the Hamrun family in 2008 to be used for industrial purposes.

The agency’s CEO, Noel Zammit, still went ahead and signed a new lease agreement last year to use the complex for several years. According to the agreement seen by The Shift, in May 2021, Heritage Malta agreed to pay some €200,000 a year until 2029.

The warehouses were built to serve as garages for the maintenance of trailers and are not covered by a change of use permit for use as storage facilities.

The agency’s CEO has been asked for an explanation several times, but he has so far refused to provide one despite growing concerns about the apparent mismanagement at the national heritage agency.

On the other hand, Jose’ Herrera, the Minister responsible for Heritage Malta when the latest lease agreement with Alfaran was signed, distanced himself from the debacle.

In e-mails to The Shift, Herrera said the original contract for the leasing of these warehouses by Heritage Malta was not done during his tenure and insisted that he was not aware of this latest contract.

When The Shift pointed out that the latest contract was signed by CEO Noel Zammit in May 2021, when he was Labour’s Minister for Culture, Herrera again insisted that the lease started when Owen Bonnici was the minister responsible for culture.

Bonnici is now once again politically responsible for Heritage Malta.

Herrera also said that despite Alfaran’s owners being from Hamrun, his district, he has never conducted any business with them, saying he did not “even know who they are”.

CEO Noel Zammit again did not reply to questions on whether the warehouses started being used before Herrera’s time.

According to Karl Azzopardi, the former CEO of Malta Industrial Parks, which manages public land allocation for industrial purposes, the area was reallocated to Alfaran in 2017, again to be used as a site for their trailers’ maintenance.

It was in 2017 that the Planning Authority issued its enforcement on several irregularities at the site.

PA enforcement notice on the site leased by Heritage Malta

Since then, Alfaran filed an appeal against the enforcement order before the Environmental and Planning Review Tribunal (EPRT), which has been ‘hearing the case’ for the last five years with no conclusion in sight.

Alfaran, through their architect David Zahra, last year filed a new development application (PA7696/21) to try to regularise their position.

Latest application by Alfaran on the warehouse complex used by Heritage Malta

Yet in typical Planning Authority style, the application is still “in screening process” and is not yet being considered as a full development application.

This is being used by the EPRT to postpone the hearing of Alfaran’s appeal against the 2017 enforcement order.

In the meantime, Heritage Malta is forking out €200,000 a year to lease these warehouses from Alfaran.

Heritage Malta is already at the centre of controversy for breaching public procurement rules to lease, without a tender, the courtyard of Mdina’s Natural History Museum, Palazzo Vilhena, to a private catering operator to use as a restaurant.

Minister Owen Bonnici said it was “market research”.

                           
                               
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4 Comments
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Paul Pullicino
Paul Pullicino
19 days ago

Malta, a land where ongoing investigations involving bad governance or deals made by simply corrupt government officials or politicians last generations. And what’s best, is that the people that are in charge “know nothing about nothing”.

A. Fan
A. Fan
19 days ago

Well, if Mizzi was just an observer in the SOCAR deal, why not Herrera with Alfaran? In fact, any Labour politician implicated in anything questionable over the past decade was clearly just a hapless bystander and an innocent victim of cruel circumstance. After all, one’s cabal having been supported by a majority of the sheeple gives one carte blanche to do as one pleases and removes any and all accountablity, legal or otherwise, doesn’t it?

J C
J C
17 days ago

There we have it, another state-funded and aided private business which is shifting part of the money to demolish, excavate and build other projects neighbouring honest citizens (different PA case) who are being crushed in the process. When resorting to BCA or reporting up to the minister’s office, you get zilch! How can one be safeguarded when authority and statesmen side with the “accused”?!
It takes a toll on the average joe’s health and wellbeing.

D.V
D.V
16 days ago

Compared to Air Malta Fiasco that’s nothing.
Golden Vote Holders Only!
More expenditure Air Malta
Workers who opt for a golden handshake are being offered anything between €40,000 and €300,000.
The government is offering €40,000 to those who have served up to five years; €80,000 to those serving 5-10 years; €120,000 for 10-15 years of service; €150,000 for 15-20 years of service; €180,000 for 20-25 years; €210,000 for 25-30; and €240,000 for those of over 30 years of service.

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