An apartment block of 43 residential units and 42 underground garages is being proposed for development on former ODZ land on the outskirts of Mqabba by Gozitan mega-developer Joseph Portelli’s business partner Clifton Cassar and with former Building and Construction Authority chairperson Maria Schembri Grima serving as its architect.
While nowadays inside Mqabba’s development zone, the area was considered outside the development zone until a 2018 rationalisation decision (PC/6/18) by the Planning Authority rezoned it.
If approved, the apartment block on Triq George Martin would be built adjacent to the development zone boundary and Mqabba cemetery, in the middle of an area characterised by two-storey maisonettes. The development would also necessitate the construction of a new road from public funds running along the back of the apartment block.
The application (PA/4317/23) was filed by CF Developers Ltd., Cassar’s company which includes Joseph Portelli as a shareholder along with Stephen Falzon and Francis Agius. In its public application for the development, Cassar also declared to be the owner of the entire site on which the apartments would be developed.
At the end of last month, environmental NGO Moviment Graffitti filed an objection to the development, saying the proposal is “wholly uncharacteristic of the area” and will set a “negative precedent on the streetscape and location”.
Moviment Graffitti’s objection also demanded a traffic impact assessment to be carried out considering “the area was not designed to handle the influx of people”, while noting “this should not justify building a new road”.
The applicant, Clifton Cassar, and the architect, Maria Schembri Grima are both close associates of rogue developer Joseph Portelli. Last year, The Shift linked CF Developers Ltd to apartments in Qrendi that were being sold before a Planning Authority decision to allow the development was taken. Schembri Grima is also a known close associate of Portelli’s, with an analysis by The Shift last year revealing that two-thirds of her permit applications were linked to Portelli’s developments.
Schembri Grima resigned from her post as Building and Construction Authority chairperson last February following a widely-reported incident in Birkirkara which saw debris falling onto a public road when dangerous demolition works she was overseeing were carried out on the site of an old telephone exchange that Portelli is turning into a block of apartments.
The application, PA/4317/23 , is currently awaiting recommendation, with a case officer report not yet published by the Planning Authority. Objections are being accepted until 4 September.