Gozitan developer’s Naxxar sheep farm proposal latest in a string of similar applications

Gozitan developer Francesco Raniero Grima is seeking Planning Authority approval for a sheep farm on a plot of land in the Naxxar outside development zone (ODZ).

Grima, known as il-Gigu, owns the construction and real estate company Elzan, which markets a portfolio of multi-storey residential apartment blocks and is not known for its agricultural developments.

The developer joins a series of other ‘sheep farmers’ who have had or are seeking to have developments approved by the Authority in recent years. A notable uptick in such developments has been deemed “suspicious” by environmental and farmer’s NGOs.

The latest application, currently awaiting Planning Authority recommendation, proposes a single-storey building with a garage-like basement level designated as an equipment store.

The building would be constructed on an empty plot of arable land on the outskirts of Naxxar and, according to the plans, it appears to be laid out like a sheep farm.

Documents submitted to the Authority show that Grima is not the site’s owner.

In comments to The Shift earlier this month, Din l-Art Ħelwa President Alex Torpiano claimed the high number of applications for sheep farms makes them “suspicious.”

Għaqda Bdiewa Attivi president Malcolm Borg had called them “ridiculous,” noting that “had they all been genuine, Malta would become one big ġbejna.”

While the proposed plans ostensibly show it partitioned as a sheep farm, NGOs have raised suspicions on similar apparently ‘genuine’ applications.

Earlier applications used as justification

The Planning Authority’s mapping server shows that Grima’s application (PA/1379/24) lies adjacent to a plot of land he is also developing. The adjacent ‘poultry farm’ (PA/1784/21) was approved in November 2021.

While its original applicant was listed as Ryan Gauci, a subsequent application for adding a basement and ancillary facilities shows Grima as the applicant. Planning Authority documents show that Gauci is the owner of the entire poultry farm site.

The applicant used the chicken farm approval as proof of the area’s “commitment” to such applications, justifying his most recent application for a sheep farm.

Architect Jennifer Drago is listed as the architect for both the poultry farm application and the latest sheep farm application.

Well-connected and controversial

Grim has been behind several developments which have caused public controversy.

Among them was a 21-apartment block in Xewkija, Gozo, deemed illegal by the courts. That development was designed by architect Alex Bigeni, who was recently revealed to be behind two-thirds of all applications for sheep farms in Gozo in the last few years.

Bigeni is also a cousin of Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri, who was handed the planning portfolio in a recent cabinet reshuffle.

Grima is also behind an application for an 18-unit apartment block and retail centre in Għajnsielem, Gozo, partially encroaching on ODZ land. The application is still awaiting Planning Authority recommendation.

Last year, The Shift also reported how Grima is one of several developers looking to take over a concession to develop Fort Chambray in Għajnsielem. A commencement notice for works at the site was issued last January.


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S. Camilleri
S. Camilleri
1 month ago

And I thought sheep were on their way out! They are all around us, procreating prodigiously, encircled by agricultural soil.

1 month ago
Reply to  S. Camilleri

We are the sheep, it’s intended for us to live in!

1 month ago

Dak hu l labour li tant ihobb l ambjent! Viva l green project! Kollha iffissati f dan s settur ghax kullhadd imdahhal! U ghalhekk qed jghaddu dawn l applikazzjonijiet tal misthija!

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