Rogue ODZ developer in Mgarr ix-Xini plays the sheep farm card

A permit for an agricultural store and water reservoir in 2007 has been illegally converted into large residences with swimming pools.


A Gozitan who developed his Outside Development Zone land in Gozo’s Mġarr ix-Xini in a piecemeal fashion over the past decade, building it into two residences complete with swimming pools, is now trying to have it regularised through an application for a sheep farm.

John Debono, who has suddenly become a farmer, is asking the Planning Authority to sanction his ‘Ġnien Taż-Żebbug’ in Għajnsielem, on the slopes of Mġarr ix-Xini and turn it into a sheep farm.

The Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) and the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage are opposing the application, fronted by architect Edwin Mintoff, on the suspicion that the proposed sheep farm was Debono’s latest attempt to iron out all the irregularities he’s accumulated over the years.

A look at Debono’s site and planning history shows that what was supposed to be a permit for an agricultural store and a water reservoir in 2007 has been illegally converted into large residence buildings and various swimming pools over the years.

The Planning Authority directorate studying Debono’s latest application noted that this was the applicant’s second attempt to have all his illegalities sanctioned. It noted that a similar application made in 2016 was turned down by the Planning Authority and the Environment and Planning Tribunal (EPRT) through an appeal.

Debono’s latest application is so far also slated for refusal. However, it is not the first time that the Planning Commission for Outside Development Zone permits, led by Martin Camilleri, has found a way to turn a suspicious application into an ‘acceptable’ one.

In its review, the Planning Commission found that Debono had built everything illegally, including a long concrete walkway in the middle of the fields leading to his development. It also found that Debono was not registered as a farmer authorised to keep sheep.

Images show how the area was developed over the years.

In his application, Debono also asked the Planning Authority to allow him to expand his illegal buildings to house the sheep and start producing Maltese cheeselets.

An enforcement notice issued by the Planning Authority in 2012 covered all of his developments but was never enforced.

Gozo’s fixation with sheep

In recent years, the policy allowing illegal agricultural developments to be turned into sheep and goat farms has become extremely popular in Gozo.

On an island with less than 40,000 inhabitants and a surface area of 67 square kilometres, there are currently 633 farms for sheep and goats.

Most of the recent and pending applications have been fronted by architect Alexander Bigeni, a relative and former consultant to Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri.

Environmental NGOs have publicly criticised this policy and warned that the law is being abused to turn land Outside the Development Zone into residences.

Ghaqda Bdiewa Attivi President Malcolm Borg has called the situation “ridiculous”, telling The Shift that “architects are advising clients to apply through the sheep farm policy to obtain permits in ODZ land.”

The Shift reported a similar case in Bidnija, where the Planning Authority permitted the construction of a large building that looked more like a villa than anything else in the middle of an idyllic valley.


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Joseph Tabone Adami
Joseph Tabone Adami
1 month ago

Il-gubna tan-naghag t’Ghawdex jitobuha hafna Maltin is-sena kollha. Jitolbuha wkoll dawk li jaghmlu r-ravjul biha. Iggib il-flus sewwa wkoll.

That accounts – at least as far as can be seen – for the proliferation of sheep farms, especially in the sister island.

What is behind it all, however, may be another matter.

Last edited 1 month ago by Joseph Tabone Adami
D M Briffa
D M Briffa
1 month ago

Come on, PN. Put it in your manifesto. Pledge to have this abomination ‘regularised’ (with dynamite). And the same goes for that other atrocity in Bidnija.

Carmel Sammut
Carmel Sammut
1 month ago

This guy and his architect should be prosecuted for taking the Mickey out if the law! This charade is happening too often !

Peter Carabott
Peter Carabott
1 month ago

There are sheep, and there are other sheep. These sheep are the middle class, so it’s fair enough for them to entertain near the pool! Nowhere else in the world shepherds love their herd so much as those in Gozo.

Ghawdex gabuh farsa shiha. Mhux cajta 633 farm tan-nghag! Dalwaqt il-popolazzjoni tan-nghag f’Ghawdex taqbez dik tan-nies.

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