One of the main shareholders in GAP Developments, Paul Attard, plans to turn Enemalta’s former LPG bottling plant in Qajjenza, Birzebbugia, into a massive residential and commercial development, even though most of the site is public property.
Public entity Enemalta and the Lands Authority own the plot of land. But Attard, through the company Katari Developments Ltd, filed an application with the planning authority to change the designated zoning of the area, paving the way for him to build four blocks of flats.
According to the plans, the development will include two eight-storey residential blocks and two commercial blocks four storeys high.
This is despite the fact that construction is restricted to just four stories in the local plan.
In his application, fronted by Architect Stephen Vancell, Attard admits that he does not own the land.
The Shift asked Attard why he applied to develop on land that did not belong to him.
He replied: “The planning proposal carries with it the consent of the owners as required by law and does not impinge upon nor transfer ownership rights”.
Energy Minister Miriam Dalli and Enemalta’s new Chairman Ryan Fava did not reply to questions aboutt Attard’s possible right over the public land.
Who owns the former LPG plant?
Situated just metres from the sea, the plant was owned and used by Enemalta for many years as an LPG bottling facility for many years.
After privatising the LPG process, Enemalta cleared the land, dismantled the old tanks and left the site in a state of disuse.
Over the years, the local council and residents have said the site would be well-suited for a recreational park for public use.
Two years ago, it was rumoured the government would sell the site to ‘friendly businessmen’ for development purposes. Dalli issued a public denial, putting her Birzebbugia constituents’ minds at rest, saying she would not allow it to become “another construction site”.
The application by Attard has led residents to believe that the initial rumours were true, they told The Shift.
Investigations carried out by The Shift show that neither Enemalta nor the Lands Authority have issued any tender for the public land to be privatised.
The law stipulates that public land can only be transferred through a public tender or a specific parliamentary resolution.
Still, the planning authority is now requesting members of the public to raise any objections so that a decision can be taken on Attard’s request.
Asked whether Enemalta or the government has entered into some form of private deal with Attard, Enemalta did not reply.
Attard and public land
Paul Attard, who also doubles as the sectary general of the Malta Development Association, is not shy of controversial developments involving public land.
Through his close connections in the Labour government, he has benefitted through many deals and policy changes during the last years, both through his shareholding in GAP Ltd and other private companies he owns.
Earlier this year, Attard was awarded a controversial Lands Authority tender to turn a green lung in Mellieha into another massive apartment block.
Through a clause in the tender intended to appease third-party interests, the 4,000-square-metre plot was issued with a right of first refusal.
It resulted that Attard, together with another businessman, Paul Vella, known as Tal-Ballut, had acquired a small portion of land sandwiched between the public plot made available for sale by the government.
Attard, through the same company now fronting the proposed Birzebbugia development on public land, is also set to get a 65-year concession issued by the government to turn the iconic Evans building in lower Valletta into a luxury hotel.
The Shift recently reported how Attard’s Katari Developments ‘corrected’ its published accounts for the past years just a day after the government unexpectedly extended the closing date of the Evans Building tender.
This was of concern to competitors, who suspected manipulation of the tender’s requirements.
Attard refused to comment on the sudden changes to the company’s financial data.