Graffitti calls for action on Portelli’s Qala illegalities, demands promised reform

Environmental NGO Moviment Graffitti called for the government to take “immediate action” on illegally constructed swimming pools forming part of a massive residential complex on outside development zone land in Qala, Gozo.

In a letter to Prime Minister Robert Abela, Graffitti also asked to reform the current planning policies, which currently allow developments to continue while under appeal. Abela had pledged to reform such policies last May but has failed to deliver on his promises thus far.

Developer Joseph Portelli illegally constructed the pools while Graffitti and the Qala local council were in the process of appealing their sanctioning permit. The Shift reported that last month, the Court of Appeal revoked the permit, definitively declaring the pools illegal.

The letter, addressed to Abela, Planning Minister Clint Camilleri and Planning Authority CEO Oliver Magro, called out the “shameful actions” of all those involved in approving the development.

The NGO recalled how Portelli publicly admitted to starting the development before a Planning Authority application had even been submitted. The authority then sanctioned the illegal works.

Prime Minister Abela had committed to reforming planning policies so that appealed developments would be halted until the appeals process was completed. After months of silence on the issue, a public consultation was issued in October, but there has been no further progress.

Graffitti called the public consultation “very problematic,” claiming it proposed “unacceptable” limitations to appeal rights under the pretence of reform.

The NGO set a deadline by which they expected a reply from Abela – 22 April. Without a reply, they said they would be left with no choice but to take direct action “for the grave injustices against the environment and the public to be remedied.”

The Shift has reported on similar developments, many built while under appeal and whose permits were later revoked by the courts. Earlier this month, permits for a large residential complex in Birżebbuġa were declared illegal.

Similarly, developments at the former Mistra Village site in Xemxija continue to be underway despite an ongoing appeals process.

Foreign Affairs Minister Ian Borg also completed the construction of a pool in an outside development zone at his residence in Santa Katerina, Rabat, while the permit for the pool was under appeal. Despite the appeals process confirming the pool as illegal, no action has been taken.



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