A planning application the Labour Party submitted last February to turn an unused residential property it claims to own in lower Valletta into offices was withdrawn just a few weeks after the resignation of its CEO and then-confidante of Prime Minster Robert Abela, George Azzopardi.
In the month that the Labour Party was at its busiest in view of the 26 March general election looming around the corner, George Azzopardi, a former canvasser for Marie Louis Coleiro Preca from Qormi who was named party CEO as soon as Abela was anointed leader in 2020, filed a planning application for the East Street property to be turned into offices.
Azzopardi declared the property was owned by the Labour Party and that it was unused.
Development plans submitted by architect Eric Formosa – a frequent beneficiary of government direct orders – on the party’s behalf show the old dilapidated property with a common entrance shared with other residences was to be converted into functional office space.
While the application had been progressing through the PA’s channels until the March election, it was suddenly halted and then withdrawn without any explanation right after the election – as soon as Azzopardi resigned his post and was replaced by Randolph Debattista.
By that time, the application had already attracted an objector, a resident of the same building, who claimed the Labour Party was attempting to deceive the Planning Authority since it submitted false information in its application. The plans, according to the objection, did not mark the main door and staircase as parts of the common area when they were not part of the property owned solely by the Labour Party.
The objector also observed the block was intended only for residential use and, as such, it could not be converted into commercial space.
Asked to explain how Labour had acquired the residential property, when it had been acquired and the scope of the application, Labour Party spokesman Ronald Vassallo refused to reply.
Vassallo also declined to state why the application filed on the party’s behalf through its CEO George Azzopardi had suddenly been withdrawn within a few months of its submission.
Labour has had a long history with the ownership of various properties, mostly requisitioned government residences and land, which have been turned into party clubs and commercial spaces over the years at the taxpayers’ expense.
The Labour Party has also benefitted from favourable deals it had struck with Labour administrations and which contributed in no small way towards the party making millions of euros from public land. The most recent case in point was that of Australia Hall in Pembroke, which has been sold to the Fino Group for development.
Sources within the Labour Party told The Shift that it was not being excluded that this latest ‘property initiative’ on Azzopardi’s part was one of the reasons behind his sudden departure from the party.
It is not yet known where George Azzopardi is working following his sudden departure from the party.
Cant believe that Austriala hall in pembroke is going to be knocked down for dam flats etc, it should be left alone for its historical value .
It’s going to be flats? Is nothing sacred. It’s screaming to be made back into some kind of theatre venue.
There aren’t many relics of the British empire anymore, and to have the ANZAC mentioned on it as well has got to be worth something.
But I guess there’s no profit in making lives better 🤷♂️ €90 cheque anyone? 🙄