Moviment Graffitti on Friday called for the immediate demolition of the “sham sheep farm” in Wied tal-Ħżejjen, Bidnija, and for the site to be returned to its natural state at the developer’s expense.
The call comes after The Shift this morning exposed the shady deal that has somehow seen what was meant to have been a sheep farm being converted into what very much appears to be a sumptuous farmhouse.
In the wake of the exposé on the Bidnija atrocity, Graffitti has filed an enforcement request with the Planning Authority, in which it is demanding that the “fake sheep farm” be demolished and the site reverted back to its original state, at the developer’s expense, as per permit conditions.
“Using deceit and lies to destroy an ecologically sensitive area for profit is an environmental crime of the highest degree,” the NGO charged. “All those responsible for issuing the first permit – from the developers to the authorities and boards – should be investigated with a view to bringing them to justice for the crimes committed.
“It has been clear to everyone from the start that this was not a genuine sheep farm; it is impossible that those who evaluated this application did not recognise this obvious fact too.”
Graffitti noted how the planning commission that issued the permit was chaired by Elizabeth Ellul, with Claude Mallia and Anthony Borg as members.
“The sham sheep farm blighting the Bidnija valley is epitomic of the rotten planning regime in force in Malta. From dysfunctional policies to farcical authorities, the current planning system has actively sponsored the wanton destruction of our natural and urban environments.
“Urgent decisive action overhauling the entirety of our planning system is needed to prevent the loss of what we have left.”
The development has been under the spotlight since the original planning application (PA/07946/18) was accepted in 2019.
Many were left baffled at how a two-storey structure, with reception areas and a swimming pool on its roof, was approved by the Planning Authority on the pretext of being a sheep farm, the NGO remarked.
A second planning application (PA/5895/22) is now asking for the structure to be transformed into a retail outlet with guest rooms. In other words, according to Graffitti, a hotel.
As such, Graffitti observed, “putting in black and white what we have known all along: that this is a multi-million-euro commercial project that illicitly took over and destroyed ODZ land.”
The sheep farmer on whom the granting of the original permit was dependent is nowhere to be seen in the new application.
This latest application was filed by a previously unknown company – Bidnija Farming Enterprise Ltd – connected to a certain Peter Bernard Carbonaro, a person whose name appears as director for three other companies registered in Malta which are all linked to trustee shareholding companies registered in Cyprus, Graffitti said.
The shareholder of the company and the application’s architect is Konrad Bezzina, who is involved in several other companies unrelated to agriculture and who has also served as a member of the Building and Construction Agency’s building regulations board.
It is possible for an action, with the widest involvement of the public, to file an Article 80 (of the Development Planning Act) request to the Planning Board of the PA to argue that the permit issued in 2019 was the result of fraud (or incorrect statements) in the information, drawings or declarations submitted to the PA at the time of its decision to issue the permit. For such action to start, anyone can write to the Planning Board, stating the basis of the case clearly. The request must be made before the lapse of 5 years from the approval of the permit, so the public is still in time to act.
Let’s do it
What if they just ignore it like other petitions and representations? I think we need an organisation such as the green party to write and perform a legal stand with the EU court. But everyone – Greens, pn, NGOs (except graffiti) do nothing else social media (lol) and perhaps a letter (ignored by PA)