REVEALED: Unpublished report on public land to be handed to developers

While parliament is set to vote on whether to give public land to developers, the report shows the advice by the Environment and Resources Authority was incorrect.


An unpublished report on the declassification of two valuable parcels of public land that Lands Minister Silvio Schembri is refusing to make public shows the government’s environmental watchdog has approved the proposal and has given a parliamentary committee incorrect information.

The report, which The Shift is publishing, shows the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) – now chaired by former Planning Authority chairman Vince Cassar – has approved the declassification of two lidos in Qawra and the Sliema Chalet without knowing that construction magnate Anglu Xuereb has been effectively squatting on public land for the last 40 years.

In its three-paragraph response to the declassification proposal’s public consultation exercise, ERA submitted: “There are no objections noting that these (public land) are already occupied or have been occupied by legally established developments; however, any remaining adjacent rocky shores should remain unaffected.”

ERA has apparently given its approval without having first checked the facts. Lands Authority CEO Robert Vella recently admitted that the declassification was required for the government to be able to settle a 30-year court case it opened against Anglu Xuereb in 1991 for having built the lidos on public land without holding a title.

According to the Lands Authority boss, Xuereb has occupied the Qawra land illegally since the 1980s.

Lands Minister Silvio Schembri is now intent on granting AX Group’s Qawra hotels a new 65-year temporary emphyteutic lease on the land, where he intends to rebuild the lidos with additional facilities.

The Commissioner for Standards in Public Life has been asked to place Schembri under investigation over his apparent close connections with leading contractors and businessmen.

While the Lands Authority CEO said Xuereb would be fined for illegally occupying around 13,000 square meters of public land for the last 40 years, Schembri refuses to disclose the hotelier’s bill.

The consultation exercise garnered 15 responses, mainly from NGOs raising objections. Some have observed how not a single piece of public land has been added to the public domain since the law was introduced in 2016 by then-minister Jose Herrera.

The first 15 metres of the coastline, the country’s seabed and government-owned sites of historical and ecological importance cannot be commercialised, according to the law.

Yet the government is prepared to declassify land to give it to a developer who has been profiting from it illegally for decades.

A meeting of the Environment Committee is set for this afternoon – the last day before the House rises for Easter recess – when the report will be put to the vote.

The committee, chaired by former Parliamentary Secretary Deo Debattista, has so far not published the report’s contents.

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Jools Seizure
Jools Seizure
2 months ago

Nothing surprises me about the shenanigans of the corrupt lot in government nowadays. But one really must ask what were the PN doing for 25 years letting these corrupt businesses getting free rides on public property. With every day that passes the only viable voting choice is between abstaining and voting for a small party. The younger generation may have a third option: getting the hell out of this hellhole.

2 months ago
Reply to  Jools Seizure

We don’t vote to get robbed!

2 months ago

The problem with the PL is that there are 1, 2 or more messes almost daily that are purposefully damaging to Malta.
Especially under ROBBER Abela, the current policy has turned into a real pig sty!!!

2 months ago

and let’s not forget that the AX business headquarters in Mosta was rented under a direct contract from the government and with a few years of payment in advance, perhaps because it needed help to pay for the renovation of these two hotels?
or still no checks on accidents at work or still no checks on the structure of this hotel or discharges into the sea during construction?

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