‘Prioritise common good’: NGOs raise alarm on potential Qajjenza land grab

NGOs have called on Energy Minister Miriam Dalli to ensure that public land at the former Qajjenza gas bottling plant in Birżebbuġa is kept for public use in an open letter published on Tuesday.

The letter from Għaqda Storja u Kultura Birżebbuġa and Marsaxlokk Heritage was sent amid concerns about a land grab by developers with links to the Office of the Prime Minister seeking to construct a residential and commercial complex in the area.

The Shift first revealed the proposal for the takeover of the land in October last year. GAP Developments’ Paul Attard, secretary of the Malta Developers Association (MDA), sought to rezone the area for two eight-storey residential blocks and two four-storey commercial buildings.

The government expropriated land adjacent to the former LPG plant earlier this year, paving the way for Attard’s proposed development.

In their letter, the NGOs noted the former gas bottling plant’s negative impact on residents. They questioned whether it was right for residents “to be rewarded with buildings reaching eight stories” after years of suffering the consequences of the plant’s impacts.

They called for “all the public land at the site to remain public,” prioritising “social aspects and the common good” over “greed and individual gain.” They hoped for common sense to prevail.

Attard applied for the area’s rezoning last October through Katari Developments Ltd. He seeks to develop four buildings reaching eight storeys in height despite local plans for the area limiting it to buildings of not more than three floors.

Over 300 objections were filed against the proposal during the limited 15-day period. Objectors included the Birżebbuġa Local Council and NGOs Din l-Art Ħelwa and Moviment Graffitti. They called for the former bottling plant to be turned into a public green area.

While Attard does not yet own the land, the Lands Authority has hurriedly expropriated small sections of adjacent land in an apparent bid to hold a title over the entire plot. Attard’s architect for the project was Nadine Micallef, wife of Prime Minister Robert Abela’s Chief of Staff Glen Micallef.

Dalli, elected from the constituency that includes Birżebbuġa, has claimed “Enemalta has no intention of selling its land,” falling short of promising its public use.

Despite being responsible for the government’s Project Green initiative, she has so far refused to commit to turning the area into a much-needed green park.

Attard has struck several profitable deals with the government in recent years, including another public land grab in the Tal-Qortin area in Mellieħa. The arrangement was implemented through a tender that gave Attard the right of first refusal in unusual terms, leading to the land’s acquisition at a price lower than current market trends.

                           

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