The Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) will not be issuing an operating licence for Gozitan construction magnate Joseph Portelli’s new hotel in Mellieha following the revocation of the building’s permit by the courts.
Asked for the government’s position in the wake of the court’s recent revocation of a Planning Authority permit that, it transpires, had been illegally issued, Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo has confirmed the authority has not yet given the illegal hotel a permit and will be abiding by the court ruling.
Bartolo’s admission in Parliament, following questions tabled by Opposition MP Rebekah Borg and a tense exchange last week on the subject when Bartolo attempted to ridicule the MP for insisting on a reaction to the court’s decision.
Bartolo at first accused Borg of not knowing where the hotel in question was and insisted on not divulging the government’s position.
He was immediately cut short by Opposition MP Robert Cutajar, who insisted Bartolo should make the position known given the fact that the minister had voted in favour of the illegal permit when he was the Labour Party’s representative on the PA’s board.
Borg tabled her questions in writing and it is now confirmed the MTA will not be giving Portelli a hotel licence.
PA in a quandary over two extra illegal floors it permitted
The PA, which issued Portelli’s permit against its own policies back in 2019, is now in a quandary over how to proceed.
The authority had allowed the development to be increased by an additional two storeys by using a policy for hotel development introduced by Labour in 2014.
The policy allows hotels an extra two storeys over and above the area’s height limitations, in favour of “quality tourism”.
Portelli leveraged the policy at the residential development in Mellieha to acquire an extra two storeys over the area’s height limitations.
Since the court has now decided that the hotel permit should have never been issued in the first place since the area is residential, Portelli has now ended up with an extra built two floors on top of the development that are completely illegal.
According to the court’s ruling, while the permit Portelli was awarded for the construction of 120 residential units is to remain valid – also because almost all the apartments have already been built and sold – the 30-room hotel cannot be opened.
According to the court, the Planning Authority’s permit had been illegal since the law does not permit such a hotel in a residential area.
The land in question – a vacant plot next to Welbee’s Supermarket in Mellieha that has been vacant for decades – was public land under the Local Council’s administration until 2015.
Asked by Mellieha MP Robert Cutajar to explain what will become of the two illegal storeys, Planning Minster Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi is avoiding direct replies and only said the PA will direct the developer to abide by the court ruling.
He did not say whether the developers will be ordered to remove the extra two floors that have been built.
In addition to Portelli and his two partners – Daniel Refalo and Mark Agius – the Mellieha development also includes Peter Borg, the co-owner of the Welbee’s Supermarket chain, and Joseph Bondin, the development’s architect.
The monstrous building was erected on top of a vacant plot of land that was previously government-owned.