Works at Mistra Village, Xemxija, to develop a nine-storey residential complex have been stepped up a notch as contractors have started dismantling boundary walls while cordoning off a three-metre buffer from the site for “safety” despite an ongoing planning appeal.
The Planning Authority’s decision to renew permits for the 2008 project is still under review by the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal (EPRT) after the Court of Appeals revoked an earlier EPRT decision to dismiss residents’ objections.
The project will now take up residents’ parking spaces in a move which independent politician Arnold Cassola has said is “really for the convenience of the contractor” in a post on social media.
Speaking to The Shift, St Paul’s Bay Mayor Alfred Grima said the local council granted requests for hoarding permits – used when part of a public access way or council property needs fencing off for building works – in the area for “safety” reasons as requested by the contractors, Charles Camilleri’s Gemxija Crown Ltd.
Grima said that the local council granted the permits, allowing for a “three-metre safety buffer” only once the Planning Authority assured them that all necessary permits for the works were in place.
“Aside from whether we agree with the development itself or not, the law allows for it, so we granted the permits,” he said.
The St Paul’s Bay Mayor also said that Camilleri was claiming that a substantial section of Triq Raddett ir-Roti on which the development was taking place was actually his private property.
He also said the developer was previously open to negotiations to increase the height of his project in return for a section of the land to be given back as public space in line with the floor-to-area ratio policy.
Last month, The Shift reported how ongoing excavation works at the Mistra Village site are causing “constant mental stress” for people in neighbouring areas. The Shift also reported how a Malta Tourism Authority scheme banning excavation and construction works in touristic areas was amended this year to allow the Mistra Village works to continue.
Last May, Chief Justice Mark Chetcuti ruled at the Court of Appeal that an EPRT decision to dismiss an appeal by residents contesting the renewal of the development’s permit must be re-evaluated.
The EPRT was to look at whether the area was already committed to high-rise developments and if it was compatible with current laws and planning policies. The tribunal accepted a site visit requested by the residents in July, but it has not yet been done.
The residents’ lawyer told The Shift that the developers have expedited works on the site before the visit to prove the commitment called for by the courts, placing residents in “a fight against time”.
Last week, The Shift reported how Prime Minister Robert Abela refused to answer questions on a commitment made in his Worker’s Day speech in May to address the issue of construction and excavation works continuing while under court appeal or being heard by the EPRT.
Abela kept mum on whether the promised change would be introduced despite rhetorically asking his supporters whether it “makes sense that planning laws allow developments to continue when the permit for that development is still being contested at the tribunal or courts”.