Aqra dan l-artiklu bil-Malti.
A small plot, forming part of the now defunct Enemalta LPG gas bottling plant in Qajjenza, Birzebbugia, is being expropriated by the Lands Authority for what it claims is “a public purpose”.
The acquisition of this land from private owners would significantly help developer Paul Attard of GAP in his bid to take over the whole former plant area and turn it into a multi-million-euro private project comprising hundreds of seafront apartments.
According to a recently published notice in the Government Gazette, the Lands Authority declared that the 680 square metre plot, forming part of the former Qajjenza plant, is being acquired “for a public purpose” for €1,028.
The price was set following a recently commissioned valuation by architect Patrick Spiteri Fiteni.
The same notice declared that the land, acquired initially without payment 46 years ago in 1978, “is still required for a public purpose”. Yet the bottling plant was closed years ago, so the “public purpose” required by law for expropriation is unclear.
Asked by The Shift to state the “public purpose” of this acquisition, the Lands Authority and Lands Minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi did not reply.
Asked also whether the land once ‘acquired’ will once again be issued for sale, the government did not answer.
The government’s acquisition of the small plot means that through the Lands Authority and Enemalta, they will hold the title on the whole area.
This paves the way for the plot to be passed on through a tender to Attard for his commercial development.
Such a tender could be issued with a right of first refusal clause, as happened in Mellieħa, also involving Attard. This tactic opens the door for Attard to take over the land once he concludes an arrangement with the private owners of another larger plot of land adjacent to the smaller plot.
Asked by The Shift whether he already owns property adjacent to the public property in Qajjenza, Attard did not reply.
There are two plots of land that Attard needs to acquire the whole area and they are both owned by the same people. They are the owners of the plot the government is expropriating. At the same time, they own an area that The Shift is informed they have already agreed to sell to Attard.
Last week, The Shift revealed that Attard’s architectural plans submitted to the Planning Authority were designed by Nadine Micallef, the wife of the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Glenn Micallef.
According to her employer, Stefan Vancell, a former Planning Authority official, Micallef provides professional services.
It is the first time Attard has commissioned Vancell’s firm for his many development projects nationwide.
Last April, Attard, through Katari Developments Ltd, applied with the Planning Authority to change the development zoning of the former LPG bottling plant in Qajjenza, Birzebbugia, to transform it into eight blocks of flats and a number of commercial units.
While parts of the plot (a third) are privately owned by the Mifsud family, most of it (two-thirds) is public property currently owned by Enemalta or the Lands Authority.
To implement his multi-million-euro project, Attard must first acquire public property from the government or enter into some kind of partnership, giving him the right to develop it.
According to the local plan, while the area is earmarked for development, it is restricted to buildings of not more than three floors. But through his proposal, Attard plans to build hundreds of flats, with blocks reaching eight floors.
While the Planning Authority is considering this application, it has been flooded with hundreds of objections, mostly insisting that the government should turn the last remaining green lung in Birzebbugia into a public park.
Even the Labour-led Birzebbugia local council is objecting, reminding Minister Miriam Dalli, responsible for Enemalta, that this area was promised as a green park and not “another development consisting of hundreds of flats”.
Although the minister said Enemalta has no plans to transfer its land in Qajjenza to Attard, the Lands Authority continues acquiring land it does not need.