The Planning Authority has received more than 300 written objections against a proposal by developer Paul Attard to turn public land in Qajjenza, Birzebbuga, into blocks of flats and commercial premises.
During the 15-day window for members of the public to file representations to be evaluated by the Planning Authority, hundreds of residents called for PC00022/23 to be halted.
Among those speaking out against the project are the Labour-led local council and local and national NGOs, including Din l-Art Helwa and Movement Graffitti. They maintain the large plot of land, once an LPG gas bottling plant, should be turned into a green open space for Qajjenza residents.
The current application, presented by Paul Attard, a director of construction conglomerate GAP Holdings, is to rezone the whole area into a residential and commercial plot.
Attard does not own the land, and more than half of it is the property of the Lands Authority or Enemalta. But he still plans to turn it into six large blocks, including residential and commercial units, as high as eight storeys.
The main objections are that public land should “not be allowed to be used for speculation and the enrichment of the few” and that the proposal would “continue to suffocate the already congested area”.
Others said that Qajjenza “needs more green and open spaces and not more flats” and that the site should be preserved due to the presence of historic industrial heritage.
Warning of “political consequences”, many objectors reminded the government of its previous promise to turn this sizeable public plot into a recreational park.
“We will remember all this and your promises if you continue to suffocate us”, an objector warned Prime Minister Robert Abela and Environment Minister Miriam Dalli, elected by the strong Labour constituency.
While the government maintains it has not taken steps to sell the public land to Attard, his application could not even be considered without approval from Prime Minister Robert Abela and Miriam Dalli, responsible for Enemalta.
A tiny sliver of the plot is privately owned by the unknown ‘Mifsud family’ and has not been sold to Attard.
Paul Attard, a shareholder in the GAP contractors, branched into his own property development business and serves as the secretary general of the Malta Developers Association (MDA). He is also considered close to Prime Minister Robert Abela and members of his private secretariat.
He has been involved in several projects involving public land or controversial Planning Authority permit approvals, including developing a green lung in Mellieha and a permit to turn a religious retreat house, Porziuncola, into a large elderly care facility.
The permit was dubbed by Madliena residents “monstrous”.
Attard is also in the running to take over Valletta’s iconic and public Evans Building.
However, problems emerged as, despite submitting the highest financial bid, he changed his company’s accounts just a few days after the government extended the deadline in what has been interpreted as an attempt to become technically compliant with the bid’s requirements.