Natura 2000 Xlendi restaurant sanctioned for €1,800 fine

A large restaurant in a Natura 2000 protected area on the Xlendi waterfront in Gozo, most of which was built illegally, was sanctioned by the Planning Authority against a fine of just €1,800.

Planning officials had originally issued a recommendation to refuse the permit, but the Planning Authority’s three-member government-appointed planning commission ignored it and went ahead with their favourable decision, according to documents reviewed by The Shift.

Terrazzo Restaurant and Beach Bar, acquired by developer Mark Agius, known as Ta’ Dirjanu, in 2022 in a seven-figure deal, includes an outdoor dining area, originally permitted to be 75 square metres but which has grown to 300 square metres, to allow for more seating for patrons.

part of the outdoor dining area on public land

Other illegalities included the replacement of demountable structures with fixed structures, the introduction of additional fixed structures, the redesign of several open staircases, and changes to the soft landscaping plan, including the uprooting of several trees.

In conformity with planning rules and the area’s sensitivity, the technical planning officers declared that the restaurant’s illegalities could not be sanctioned.

Justifying their recommendation to turn down Agius’ application, they declared that “the proposed structures in a Natura 2000 area scheduled for its high landscape value and ecological importance, run counter to various policies in the Gozo and Comino Local Plan” and that “these create an unacceptable adverse impact on these scheduled areas, by failing to directly protect them, and their visual access from different parts of Xlendi bay.”

Additionally, they noted that the proposed development “does not ensure an accessible environment for all its users and visitors”, again counter to Planning Authority policies.

Quick change in position

But when the proposal came up in front of the Planning Commission tasked with taking the final decision, the government-appointed Chairman Martin Camilleri, flanked by members Frank Ivan Caruana Catania and Perit Joel Fenech, disagreed with the recommendation and asked for a review.

According to them, once the area was already ‘committed’, the sanctioning could be approved with a few tweaks.

Martin Camilleri – the chairman of the Planning Commission

After suspending the application for three months and holding discussions with the developer’s architect, Emmanuel Vella, the same three-member commission approved all the illegalities.

Aguis was then asked to pay a fine of €1,800 for breaching many planning rules and laws.

Since, through the illegal increase of the reserved outdoor area – on public land – Agius would be hosting many more patrons in his restaurant, a planning gain of €173,000 was imposed to compensate for 23 new parking spaces this new illegal development would require.

Planning gain funds are requested from developers, according to a prescribed formula, when their development takes up public space. These funds are usually used for future public projects.

Considered one of the best-located restaurants in Gozo due to its stunning views, Terrazzo’s started out in 1995 as a small kiosk offering sunbeds for tourists.

Over time, and under both PN and PL administrations, the kiosk morphed into a full-blown restaurant with a large alfresco dining area.

The original owner who sold the business to Agius, with all its illegalities, was later recruited as a labourer at the Gozo Ministry.

Mark Agius, the current owner, has business links to developer Joseph Portelli and his construction business.

He has been implicated in several cases of abuse of planning laws, which the authorities have ignored for years. These include an illegal concrete batching plant in Kercem, co-owned with Portelli, that operates on public land without any license or title.

Before the last elections, Portelli organised an exclusive fundraising dinner for the Labour Party and Prime Minister Robert Abela was the guest of honour.

                           

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13 Comments
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Osservatore
Osservatore
1 month ago

Ironically, I paid close to €10,000 to sanction a 2m wall built 16 cm too close to the facade of my residential property. Architect/builder oversight on a property for which a CTB had been granted. But to see these guys get away scot free for much bigger and more grevious intentional issues upsets me way more than what I had to pay. Go figure!

Jonathan Portelli
Jonathan Portelli
1 month ago
Reply to  Osservatore

you should complain about this issue, as we all know who owns terrazzo, the guys with big donating pockets to the government…..

Joseph Said
Joseph Said
1 month ago
Reply to  Osservatore

I can imagine how much it upsets you. I feel devastated to read about these illegalities and the sanctioning by the authorities.

Fred the Red
Fred the Red
1 month ago

These illegalities are very obvious even to the untrained eye. But of course the opposition so-called spokesmen for Gozo never had anything to say on this and other atrocities in Gozo. Not a word from Messrs Chris Said and Alex Borg. Nothing, silence… Instead the latter vainly attempts to hog the headlines by endorsing Franco Debono’s comeback – now that would really be the final nail in the PN’s coffin! Having been hoisted shoulder high by Taghna Lkoll supporters in the aftermath of 2013 elections, Debono was eventually thrown overboard by Labour and now seeks relevance by returning to the PN’s fold. How naive can the PN get!

Last edited 1 month ago by Fred the Red
Mark
Mark
1 month ago
Reply to  Fred the Red

The opposition guy you mention Alex Borg is dating Terrazo’s Co owner Maria Agius. Maria Agius is Mark Agius’s sister and also involved in the many dubious projects the trio Portelli (Joseph), Agius (Mark) and Refalo (Daniel ix-Xopp) have. Ah and the cherry on the cake, Mr Borg’s girlfriend is the CEO of that horrendous building Portelli and Agius built on public land in front of Xewkija cemetery which was supposed to home Gozitan tradesmen but now is a warehouse for these mafiosi.

Josette Portelli
Josette Portelli
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark

Reading the article and comments makes my stomach ache.

karmenu Psaila
karmenu Psaila
1 month ago

I have paid more than that to sanction a small flat .

Jonathan Portelli
Jonathan Portelli
1 month ago

money talks, BULLSHIT walks….

Joseph
Joseph
1 month ago

Honest people who live by the law, pay taxes and vat are totally stupid it seems.
One needs to do as he wishes and forget the laws it seems

Mark Debono
Mark Debono
1 month ago

This is just advertising that build what you want then get it sanctioned as long as you donate to the PA committee and whoever is in government and all will be legalised but just line there pockets and be connected

M.Galea
M.Galea
1 month ago

Jaqq imma issa kollox sar jghaddi! Hmieg!!

Joseph Tabone Adami
Joseph Tabone Adami
1 month ago

One Thousand, Eight Hundred measly Euros!!!

Quite a cheap price to pay for illegally appropriating a good stretch (225 square metres) of public land.

Who knows whether other ‘expenses’ of one sort or another were also involved. In most cases of sanctioning – read ‘forgiveness of crime’ – these are usually dished out, too..

Not publicly, of course.

Nina
Nina
1 month ago

Impressive! I was given a 4k fine for a 2 car garage that was 20cm higher than proposed, because it was dug a little more than it should. But I’m no business person. Trasparenza zikk!

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