Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo’s family, including his father Joseph, have been served with an official enforcement notice by the Planning Authority regarding an illegal car park in Mellieħa, following years of impunity and thousands of euros in profit being made.
A large plot of agricultural land on Mellieħa’s Marfa Road, opposite the Ghadira promenade, has been functioning as a car park, run by the minister’s father and brothers, David and Godfrey. Over the years, many complaints have been made to the authorities by neighbours and local tourism operators over the sites’ use as a car park and storage for boats and scrap material.
In addition, the family also carried out illegal works on the ODZ plot of land, including knocking down walls to create new entrances for vehicles, installing large concrete boulders to block other areas, and storing flammable tyres.
Aside from the fact the site is illegal and carries a risk due to the improper storage of flammable items, locals also complained it was an eyesore in a prime tourist area.
Hundreds of vehicles use the car park daily, each paying €5 per day. This would tally up to tens of thousands of euros throughout the summer.
Despite the abuse continuing for years, it took until October 2023 for the Planning Authority to issue an enforcement order. The order lists the infringement as “change of use from agricultural land to parking area, boat storage, creation of two new accesses through the removal of the boundary walls, placing of blocks, installation of a new gate and storage of tyres.”
A €50 fine will be payable for each day of noncompliance with the order.
The Bartolos have not yet cleared the site and are still allowing cars to be parked illegally after paying the fee, which is also illegal.
Under the law, the authority is obliged to take action if the abuse continues, but this has not happened by the time of publication.
The company which operates the illegal activity is listed as Gerbulin Investments Ltd. While the minister is not listed as involved in the carpark or the company, Gilbert, who is also an architect, is listed as a contravener.
Another contravener is listed as Chairperson of the Lands Authority, John Vassallo. While it is unknown if the plot is public land, his inclusion on the notice suggests this could be the case.
In recent months, the demand for parking spaces in the area has increased due to work on the Mellieħa promenade led by the minister. This has restricted the already limited on-road parking spaces, increasing demand for the illegal site.
Until becoming a member of the government’s executive in 2020, the minister represented the Labour Party government on the main board of the Planning Authority.
Through an application filed by his brother Gilbert in 2020 (PA08247/20), the minister’s father applied to turn the land into an official car park. While ERA had strangely given its approval, the Planning Authority turned down the request, as it went against all policies for the area.
But this did not stop them from continuing with the plan, and meanwhile, Clayton became tourism minister.
Apart from the illegal car park, the minister’s father is also involved in other tourism-related businesses, including ‘Oh Yes Malta’, which ferries tourists from Mellieħa to Comino’s Blue Lagoon.
The company, which shares a jetty with Mellieħa’s Blu Beach Club, provides several water sports-based facilities and cruises around Comino.
A management plan of Comino, promised by the minister years ago, which could cap the number of visitors to the ecologically sensitive island, has been postponed for many years.