The government is facing strong opposition from local council members and hundreds of residents over plans to turn public land on the Birzebbuga seafront into private residential and commercial units.
The Shift recently revealed that Paul Attard, a shareholder of GAP Developments and secretary at the Malta Developer’s Association (MDA), applied for the re-zoning of the former Enemalta LPG facilitate in Qajjenza to turn it into six blocks of apartments and commercial premises.
The application was made without Attard owning the plot of land the proposed development will occupy.
The Labour-led Birzebbuga Local Council said they would oppose the development, and comments on social media have warned Ministers Miriam Dalli and Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi, elected from that locality, that they will lose votes if they do not consider the needs of their constituents.
Following an urgent meeting, the council released a statement saying it will formally oppose PC0022/23 submitted by Attard and his architect Stephen Vancell, as this will have detrimental consequences on the locality.
The council insisted that the public land be kept for general use and transformed into an open green space, as no more flats are needed in the locality.
Warning that it would vehemently oppose the application, the council called upon the government to shelve the idea.
Hundreds of objections from residents have already been submitted to the Planning Authority, many calling on Dalli, responsible for the environment, to stop what some have called “an atrocity”.
Many also questioned how this public land could be included in an application for private development when it was the property of the state entity, Enemalta.
So far, Dalli, also responsible for Enemalta, has been silent on the matter and has not answered any questions posed by the media.
Instead, in a reply to a parliamentary question by Nationalist Party MP Stanley Zammit, Dalli insisted that “Enemalta has no intention of selling the land”.
She did not mention to parliament that for Attard’s application to proceed, he must have Enemalta and Dalli’s approval.
Lands Minister Silvio Schembri was more straightforward in his answer, admitting that the Lands Authority, which owns 14% of the plot, has given its consent to the MDA’s secretary general to file his application.
However, he insisted that the land had not been transferred to Attard.
Sources at the Lands Authority told The Shift that for Attard to take over public land, he must either participate in a tender or a parliamentary motion, which parliament should approve.
A tender can be issued with a “right of first refusal” clause so that those who already own land adjacent to the public lot will have the right to purchase it.
Sources said that this will “probably happen again to accommodate Attard”.
The developer, who has applied through his company Katari Developments, told The Shift that his application is not for development but for re-zoning, recognising that he does not currently own the land.
According to the local plan, the area can only be developed up to a height of four storeys. However, Attard wants the Planning Authority to permit him to build blocks totalling eight floors.
Attard is considered close to the current administration, particularly to Prime Minister Robert Abela and members of his private secretariat.
The property development businessman was already the recipient of questionable deals involving public land in the past years, most recently involving a large public green lung in the area of il-Qortin in Mellieha, which he will turn into apartments.
The Lands Authority tender was awarded to Attard despite his bid being far below current market prices.