Gozo apartment owners risk losses as court declares property illegal following PA blunder

A newly constructed block of apartments in Xewkija, Gozo, has been declared illegal by the court, risking the investment of all those who purchased units before the decision was taken.

The court found that the Authority issued a building permit for the 21 apartments and six penthouses against several objections, a recommendation by its directorate, and its own rules.

While legal challenges were immediately filed against the permit, issued in 2021, Gozitan developer Franceso Grima, known as il-Gigu, continued selling his planned apartments and developing his project, risking both investor funds and his own.

The field which the Planning Authority illegally approved for development.

According to planning laws, developers are not required to halt their projects until a final decision is taken on the objections raised.

In a final decision last week, as the complex nears completion, the Court of Appeal, Presided by Chief Justice Mark Chetcuti, declared that the Planning Authority broke all planning rules when issuing this permit and struck it down.

This has put the whole development and the investments of those who already purchased property within it into question.

How it happened

In 2020, Gozitan developer Francesco Grima applied for the development of residential apartments on a large plot of agricultural land in Xewkija.

Grima’s plan immediately raised objections, with NGO Din l-Art Helwa and several neighbours fiercely opposing it as it breached a number of planning policies in the area.

While the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) remained silent, the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage declared Grima’s application was a nonstarter as it would destroy arable land and was out of proportion with its surroundings.

Also, his architect, Alex Bigeni, a relative of Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri, applied to build five floors when the local plan for the area only permits three.

The Planning Authority’s directorate agreed with the objections and recommended an outright refusal.

Adverts selling the property when permit was still under scrutiny

Despite this, the Planning Commission, presided over by architect Claude Mallia, who was later given a government job as the CEO of Malta Air Traffic Services (MATS), decided to approve the permit.

In March 2023, as the project was nearing completion, the Environmental and Planning Review Tribunal (EPRT), presided over by Joe Borg (a Planning Authority employee), confirmed the Authority’s first decision to issue a permit.

It took more than two years to come to this conclusion, giving Grima ample time to conclude his project and sell the apartments.

Following objections, the Court of Appeal struck down the PA and the EPRT decisions last week and cancelled the 2021 permit.

In his judgment, Chief Justice Chetcuti said the Planning Authority had acted abusively and illegally as the policy and the local plan for the area made it very clear that no more than three floors were permitted.

The court said it could not understand how the Planning Authority and the EPRT decided that Grima should build five storeys, going against the local plan.

The court’s decision is final and cannot be appealed, meaning the entire building will remain illegal and should, at least in theory, be demolished.

The Planning Authority was also embroiled in a recent similar case where it allowed Minister Ian Borg to build a pool next to his home in the rural hamlet of Santa Katerina in Rabat.

While the Planning Authority issued a permit to the minister (who at the time was also responsible for the same Authority), the court struck it down years later, ruling the permit was issued illegally.

However, the minister decided to continue building the pool illegally on ODZ land, taking full advantage of the time taken between the issue of his illegal permit by the Planning Authority and the time the court took to strike it down.

To date, the Planning Authority has not issued an enforcement notice to the minister to demolish the illegal construction.

                           

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23 Comments
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D. Borg
D. Borg
2 months ago

In such instances, the Planning Commission members, together with the Environmental and Planning Review Tribunal members, who voted in favour of this illegal “development”, should be sued in their personal capacities.
This will forewarn other members of public entities that their responsibility is to serve the general public and not the politicians (and their donors).

vic
vic
2 months ago

‘The Planning Authority has not issued an enforcement notice’. So, why have rules at all?

Paul Bonello
Paul Bonello
2 months ago
Reply to  vic

No they serve a purpose: to apply them against the plebs!

John C.
John C.
2 months ago

To date the planning authority let the illegal ready mix at limits of Kercem functioning. Over and above the Gozo Ministry use this illegal ready mix. Then the PA makes life a living hell to the normal citizens. Such attitude and arrogance are shameful.

D M Briffa
D M Briffa
2 months ago

The building should be demolished. A harsh, but necessary and long overdue, lesson to everyone concerned.

M.Galea
M.Galea
2 months ago
Reply to  D M Briffa

It is not harsh! Built illegal should be demolished full stop!

Emanuel Camilleri
Emanuel Camilleri
2 months ago
Reply to  M.Galea

And who will protect those small investors who bought an apartment while they were not aware that this was illegal! Also why the notaries who made the searches didn’t discovered about these illegalities and advised their clients during the promise of sale!

John Haber
John Haber
2 months ago

When shall all those who have taken abusive decisions be held accountable for their actions? Maybe in another lifetime….

Charles Anthony Falzon
Charles Anthony Falzon
2 months ago

The members of the Planning Commission who approved this monstrous, illegal permit should either resign or made to resign by Minister Zrinzo Azzopardi.
Architect Alex Bigeni should also know better for submitting this illegal application. He must also carry responsibility for his shortcomings and resign or made to resign by the Chamber of Architects.
These illegalities must be stopped in their tracks if our institutions are to ever become credible and seen as independent, otherwise they may only be considered as ‘SHITTY’.

Paul Bonello
Paul Bonello
2 months ago

How can Zrinzo Azzopardi make them resign? He is part of this corrupt system, including the entire cabinet

Gaetano Pace
Gaetano Pace
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul Bonello

DADDY would not have him resign. Ma tarax after 25 years of toil, sweat and Labour.

Dave
Dave
2 months ago

Resignation is not enough. They need to be sued in their personal capacities. Such ‘mistakes’ cannot be explained away by simple incompetence.

Joseph Said
2 months ago

Not only should fake and fraudster members of the these institutions be forced to resign, but also to refund their salaries and face justice. Transferring an incompetent and unreliable member to other places of work is like postponing your responsibility to take action. When losing control of a situation, one has created, will force him to make the wrong decisions.
God forbid if we are heading for a disaster, while having to cope with a heavy, corrupt administration.

Joseph Tabone Adami
Joseph Tabone Adami
2 months ago

This is certainly an instance of the P.A. members who voted their approval being forced to resign, if not outright dismissed.

But is it also an instance of criminal proceedings, besides civil action, against them?.

Last edited 2 months ago by Joseph Tabone Adami
makjavel
makjavel
2 months ago

Will the Honorable Chief Justice haul the guilty parties to court of his judgement is ignored?
It is time that the COURTS Show their mettle in a land of cowboys.

Alfred
Alfred
2 months ago

My my the PA acted abusively and illegally the judge said so what’s new. Now what ,will the block be demolished?

M.Galea
M.Galea
2 months ago

X gharukaza!! Dal bini kollu hu ghaliex l politici kolla zviluppaturi w mhu ser jaghmlu xejn biex itelfu dal business taghhom imma l poplu ghadu ma indunax!!

Robert
Robert
2 months ago

Veru kollha ‘sold’ u hekk veru nahseb hemm xi bank loans…u posdibli li l-bank jew banek involuti ma kienux jafu bil-kaz??

wish
wish
2 months ago
Reply to  Robert

Il-bank l-aqwa li jigbor l imghax u li ghandek biex taghmel tajjeb, xoghol mhux li jaghtik pariri.

Mark Debono
Mark Debono
2 months ago

Let’s not feel sorry for the buyers who bought their properties knowing that there was no planning permission because us plebs would never buy beforehand unless we were connected and getting a heavy discount? It’s called karma

Joseph Mifsud
Joseph Mifsud
2 months ago

In Malta there is a law that a neighbour cannot stop a developer from inflicting damage to his house until his house is in an imminent danger of collapsing.
Where in the EU there is such a law ?
Does the EU Commission know of this unjust situation and that it is an accomplice in this injustice because it didn’t apply the EU’S Principal of Proportionality law on Malta to ban all foreigners from buying property in Malta?

Lorraine
Lorraine
2 months ago

Let’s hope this is the end of the cowboy attitude

Toni Borg
Toni Borg
2 months ago

It is about time the law is changed. No further building can continue until the appeal is settled!!!

Many have abused of the current situation putting consumers at risk!

But for this government, the developers come first!!!

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