Two leading construction companies – Polidano Brothers and Schembri Barbros – that have been squatting on public land in Siggiewi and using it as a quarry for decades, have filed a new development application to expand the illegal business laterally and further into agricultural land, The Shift is informed.
In another example of complete impunity, Polidano & Schembri Ltd told the Planning Authority it intends to continue extracting hardstone from public land in the pristine area of Fawwara for at least another ten years, after which the whole site will be restored.
They are even proposing to eventually turn the public land into a solar farm.
The development application has been filed despite a 2018 court ruling that declared both Polidano and Schembri Barbros as squatters and ordered their eviction from the quarry.
Instead of the land’s owners, the Lands Authority, taking direct action to remove them from the site, the construction magnates are now applying for a new permit to continue expanding the illegal quarry.
The new application is being opposed by the Siggiewi local council and many others. It was filed by architect Robert Grech and proposes that around three tumoli of fresh agricultural land be used instead for further hardstone quarrying.
Neither company has a title over the land they want to dig up, since it is public property currently being used by farmers for agricultural purposes.
Instead of dismissing the application, the PA has taken it into consideration since according to legislation, which has never been changed despite pledges from successive governments, the PA does not go into land ownership when deciding on development applications.
The site in question, known as Quarry 7, is in the area of Tal-Gholja and Tal-Gibjun and has been abused for over a century with the complicity of every government administration since.
It was given to farmers in 1933 through a public contract strictly for agricultural use. However, it was immediately turned into a quarry, with the hardstone extracted illegally and sold for construction purposes.
In the meantime, the illegal quarry has changed hands several times, each time against monetary compensation, which is also illegal since it is public property until it ended up in the hands of Polidano and Schembri Barbros in 1995.
It was only in 2011 that the Lands Authority filed a court case to reclaim the public property. In 2018 the courts decided that the ongoing possession of the area was illegal and ordered the contractors’ eviction.
An appeal has been filed and it is still being heard, as is the new development application.