The Malta Tourism Authority’s (MTA) licencing chief Kevin Fsadni is not disclosing the government agency’s position on an illegal hotel built by construction magnate Joseph Portelli and his associates in Mellieha.
Following a court judgement last week, in which the Chief Justice struck down a permit issued by the Planning Authority in 2019 to turn a public open space in Mellieha into a mixed development including a three-star hotel, Fsandi, when asked for the MTA’s position, passed the buck to his superiors.
Asked by The Shift to state whether, given the court’s judgement, the MTA will be revoking the operating licence for Portelli’s new hotel, the MTA’s product development director, who is also responsible for issuing licences, did not reply.
Neither did the MTA’s spokesperson reply to our questions when Fsadni passed on The Shift’s questions for replies.
Fsadni’s boss is Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo, who voted in favour of the development in 2019 when representing the Labour Party on the Planning Authority’s board. The approval came despite opposition from the Mellieha community and a negative recommendation by the PA’s own directorate.
Bartolo was joined by Elizabeth Ellul, the ODZ permits supremo who later also issued another controversial permit for Portelli in Qala, in approving the project.
According to the court decision, Portelli’s permit for the 120 residential units remains valid – with almost all the apartments already having been built and sold – the 30-room hotel will not be able to commence operations.
According to the court, the PA permit was illegal since the law does not provide for hotels in a residential area.
The Shift is informed that while the hotel has also already been built, it has not yet opened its doors for business.
But the MTA has still not yet said whether the licence was approved or whether it will be revoked.
Portelli had used the hotel development and a policy allowing such establishments an extra two storeys to grow the development to eight instead of the three usually permitted by current height policies.
How public land was turned into business by Portelli and associates
The land in question, a plot that has been vacant for decades next to the Welbee’s Supermarket, was public land under the Local Council’s administration until 2015.
The government suddenly made the land available for sale, in the process depriving Mellieha residents of an open space. At the time, the Labour-led local council, where Bartolo was deputy mayor, did not object to this sale despite opposition from nearby residents.
The plot was sold by tender to Shopwise Developments M Ltd and was developed into a multi-million-euro mixed development through a permit that has now been declared illegal by the Court.
Apart from Portelli and his usual associates – Mark Agius, known as ta’ Dirjanu and Daniel Refalo, the Comino deckchair concessionaire turned developer – other business people benefitting from the project.
These include Philip Borg, the owner of the former Tower Supermarkets, which is now part of Welbee’s Supermarkets chain, and Joseph Bondin, the development’s architect.
In view of the Court decision, it is unknown whether they will now try to turn the hotel into more residential apartments, which would require a whole new development application process.
He takes them out for expensive lunch they hey presto another approved permit and he openly admitted doing that,
In other countries it would be pulled down at the cost of the developer
Just one of the hazards when “developers” have the government firmly in their pockets.
If illegal, stop the construction and then pull it down.
the tentacles of the local Mafia are long and widespread…..they reach out in every crack to ensure that these filthy pigs become rich.
Well, as long as they find stupid Gahan’s to vote for them, then let them enjoy it while it lasts!
And how did Mercury Tower grow from the agreed 31 floors to 33 floors? There’s something else worth investigating… (please).