The Planning Authority’s Agricultural Advisory Committee (AAC), a group made up of local farming experts, slammed the supposed sheep farm the PA allowed to be built in an unspoilt Bidnija valley, raising serious doubts about the real reason behind the massive building.
No farming activity is going on inside the newly built structure where a mysterious blast occurred a few days ago and which is now being investigated by the police.
Konrad Bezzina, the building’s architect and owner, is trying to convince the PA that he is a farmer and wants to use part of his building as a farmer’s dwelling, but the AAC made it clear that Bezzina is not eligible for such a residence.
Bezzina’s original intentions were immediately signalled by the media and by NGO’s three years ago, but they were ignored by the PA’s permit committee chairperson Elizabeth Ellul.
The AAC raised strong objections to the latest piecemeal application, stating, “The applicant [Bezzina] is not a registered farmer while part of the site is still registered on a third party.”
The committee said that Bezzina gave no proof of any technical knowledge or experience of farming, and the structure as it has been built differs significantly from the original permit issued by the PA, making the sheep farm look more like a dwelling than an agricultural structure.
“The Committee objects to any additional footprint from that approved and requests clarification from the architect (owner) on the reason why the original application was in the name of a genuine farmer while this proposal in the name of a third party not even registered with the department”, the committee said.
“In addition, due to several changes from the original proposal, the Committee has doubts that the proposal is for a genuine farming activity.”
The PA is being inundated with hundreds of objections to the latest application to extend the sheep farm and turn parts of it into residential and agritourism facilities, and some are even demanding that the entire building be demolished and the site returned to its original state.
Both the ERA and the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage have also strongly objected to the application.
The application to turn a field in the middle of unspoilt Wied il-Hżejjen in Bidnija into a massive sheep farm was filed in 2018 under the name of Jason Vella, a registered farmer. That application (PA/07946/18) fell under the radar, but state agencies, such as the Environment and Resources Authority, objected. Yet the PA, led by Elizabeth Ellul, approved the permit.
The following application filed this year (PA/05895/22) had over a thousand objections as NGOs joined hundreds of residents reacting to the project.
It was already known that the real developer of the supposed farm was the project’s architect, Konrad Bezzina, more of a businessman than a farmer. But Ellul still ignored all objections and approved the permit.
The structure was built, the original plans were disregarded, and the end result looks like a luxury residence.
The Shift is informed that the architect’s family and friends are already using part of the building as a weekend retreat, serving BBQ’s on a veranda facing idyllic countryside. No animals have been seen on the site.
In the meantime, ownership of the supposed farm changed hands and a newly formed company called Bidnija Farming Enterprise Ltd became its owner.
Bezzina is the sole shareholder of this company, and notary Peter Bernard Carbonaro of Lija is serving as its director. Carbonaro also lent his name to the new development application to further expand the so-called sheep farm.
The original owner of the farm, Jason Vella, applied for and was allocated €150,000 in EU funds to finance the project, earmarked as “a new goat and sheep farm to keep Maltese tradition alive.”
The EU funds were approved by Malta’s Ministry for Agriculture. It is not yet known what happened to them.
Both the EU and anti-fraud agency OLAF have been notified of the issue but no conclusions have been made public.