Ongoing excavation works at the Mistra Village site in Xemxija, forming part of a project for a large residential complex subject to an ongoing appeal before the Environment and Planning Tribunal, are causing “constant mental stress” for people in neighbouring areas, according to residents who spoke to The Shift.
The site at Triq Raddet ir-Roti also lies within a ‘Touristic Area’ zone in which demolition and excavation work should be halted during the summer months.
“Each morning, we wake up to a fine layer of dust coating our balconies. We have to keep windows constantly closed and contend with dust on our drying clothes,” said Maureen Verzin, who lives on Triq Raddet ir-Roti.
“The excavation work has been going on for months, Monday to Saturday, from 7am to 6pm. We get no rest. It’s constant mental stress,” she continued.
Neighbouring residents living in apartments on adjacent roads voiced similar concerns on the Xemxija Residents Facebook group. They complained about constant noise, dust and debris from the site, with several videos showing excavation work going on into the late hours of the evening.
The site’s developer, Charles Camilleri of Gemxija Crown Ltd, proposes to build a four-block residential and commercial complex reaching nine storeys. The latest application, PA/6747/18, is a request for the renewal of a previous application from 2008, which objectors to the project say no longer holds up to current planning standards and policies and should be denied.
The request for renewal has been subject to two separate appeals before the Environmental and Planning Review Tribunal, with one appeal filed by residents and another by the St Paul’s Bay Local Council.
In response to The Shift’s questions about ongoing development at the site, a Planning Authority spokesperson said, “Works on site were neither suspended nor revoked by the Courts. Hence, in view that permit validity expires on 6 February 2024, works may continue to be carried out till the expiry of the said permit.”
The spokesperson further said that the Planning Authority does not regulate the Building and Construction Authority scheme for ceasing works in touristic areas during the summer period.
The BCA has not answered The Shift’s questions.
Residents in ‘a fight against time’
The residents’ appeal filed with the EPRT was seen by the Court of Appeals, with Chief Justice Mark Chetcuti ruling last May to revoke the EPRT’s decision to dismiss the appeal calling for its reconsideration.
Chief Justice Chetcuti called for the EPRT to reevaluate whether the area was already committed to high-rise developments and whether it was compatible with current laws and planning policies.
The EPRT accepted a site visit requested from the residents in July but it has not yet been carried out.
The residents’ lawyer Claire Bonello told The Shift that the developers have expedited works on the site ahead of the visit to prove the commitment called for by the courts, placing residents in “a fight against time”.
The situation faced by the Xemxija residents once again raises the issue of developments being allowed to continue despite ongoing court proceedings, with the case echoing that of Foreign Affairs Minister Ian Borg, whose ODZ pool was constructed at the same time appeals against it were being heard.
During the last hearing on 20 July, besides accepting the request for a visit to the Xemxija site, the EPRT deferred the case until 24 October. Works on site are in the meantime continuing at a rapid pace, making a mockery of the country’s planning regulations.