Architect Nadine Micallef, the wife of Prime Minister Robert Abela’s Chief of Staff, Glenn Micallef, is leading efforts of developer Paul Attard of GAP in turning a large tract of public land in Birżebbuġa into blocks of flats and commercial premises.
Preliminary designs of the project, mostly on public land owned by Enemalta and the Lands Authority, presented recently to the Planning Authority, carry the signature of Micallef.
The Shift has asked Micallef’s employer, Stefan Vancell, whether she was involved in the project. He confirmed she is, but her involvement is strictly related to her profession and is not a conflict of interest.
“The firm’s role is limited to the provision of architectural services,” Vancell, himself a former official of the Planning Authority, said.
Paul Attard, the secretary general of the Malta Developers Association (MDA), needs the green light from the Office of the Prime Minister for his multi-million-euro planned project to move forward.
The Shift asked Vancell to list any projects he has worked on for Attard, GAP or related companies, but he declined to answer.
What’s happened so far?
Last April, Paul Attard, through Katari Developments Ltd and Vancell Architecture, filed an application with the Planning Authority to change the development zoning of the former LPG bottling plant in Qajjenza, Birżebbuġa, to transform it into eight blocks of flats and commercial premises.
While parts of the plot are privately owned, most of it is public property currently owned by Enemalta or the Lands Authority.
According to the local plan, while the area is earmarked for development, it is restricted to buildings of not more than three floors.
Through his proposal, Attard plans to build hundreds of flats, with blocks reaching eight floors.
When asked to explain how he is proposing to build this project when he does not own most of the land in question, Attard did not reply. He insisted that, at this stage, he was only seeking to establish changes to the development parameters of the area.
To be able to move on with his project, even at this stage, the Lands Authority and Enemalta have already given their consent for this application to move forward.
At the same time, Enemalta’s Minister Miriam Dalli, elected from the Birżebbuġa district, claimed that the government had no intention of selling the land.
While the Planning Authority is still considering this application, it has been flooded with hundreds of objections, mostly insisting that the government should turn the last remaining green lung in the area into a public open park.
Even the Labour-led Birżebbuġa local council objected, reminding Minister Dalli that this area was promised as a green park and not “another development consisting of hundreds of flats”.
Just a few months ago, through similar manoeuvres with the Lands Authority, Attard succeeded in taking over a large green lung in Mellieħa following a tender issued with conditions in his favour.
Despite the objections of hundreds of residents, Attard still got the land, estimated to have a market price tag of some €12 million, for just €300,000 a year for the next 15 until he completes the project.
Attard is also lobbying for another multi-million-euro public property – Evans building in Valletta – to turn it into a five-star hotel.
The Shift has already reported how Attard ‘corrected’ his company’s accounts to reach the eligibility criteria to compete in the ongoing competition for the Evans concession.