Sanctioning of La Grotta club resurfaces after Gozo Minister takes over PA

A decade after its initial submission, a planning application to legalise unauthorised development activities at La Grotta club in Xlendi’s protected Lunzjata Valley has resurfaced at the Planning Authority (PA).

The application (PA01930/17) was filed in September 2014 and published for consultation last February after Clint Camilleri became the minister responsible for the Planning Authority.

It is unclear why the application, led by Gozitan businessman George Said, also known as id-Diaz, took ten years to be published. Yet, since its release, it has made significant progress.

For example, the Environment Resource Authority (ERA) has already granted its approval despite illegalities dating back 40 years and its location in a protected valley.

The only significant change since the application was submitted is a change in the architect, with Said now hiring William Lewis for the job. Lewis is the organising secretary of the Labour Party.

According to recent submissions from several government entities, the project is now awaiting the recommendations of the PA directorate on the next steps.

La Grotta club was built in 1986, a year before Labour’s 16-year rule ended.

The large club, mostly developed without permits, was built on a stretch of road linking Victoria to Xlendi and perched on the idyllic Lunzjata Valley. The venue is a popular destination for late-night entertainment, especially during the summer months in Gozo.

Despite receiving four enforcement orders between 1994 and 1999, the venue continued to operate illegally and was never shut down by the PA under various administrations.

Instead, using various legal loopholes and delaying tactics, including in court, Said managed to keep his business running uninterrupted to this day, with the illegalities still in place.

The only intervention made by the PA before 2013 was to stop Said from committing further illegalities.

La Grotta owner George Said, better known as ‘id-Diaz‘, has profited from the illegal club for decades.

According  to the last enforcement notice, which dates back 25 years (1999), the illegalities at La Grotta included “structures on different levels, including a pizzeria, stores, bars, toilets, terraces and stairs, and accommodation rooms found at the entrance down to the valley, along the entire complex of La Grotta.”

In the past, sanctioning illegal developments in protected valleys was prohibited entirely, but the government changed the rules in 2015 to allow such interventions.

Since the Labour Party was re-elected in 2013, George Said has been a member of the Gozo Channel’s Board of Directors. He has received various direct orders from the Gozo Ministry through several businesses, including Security First Services Ltd.

The same businessman is involved in another controversial property, a Knight’s era battery in Qbajjar, which was leased to him temporarily but has been left in ruins for decades and now risks collapsing.

                           

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simon oosterman
simon oosterman
25 days ago

It is all so blatant and unsurprising!

Joseph Tabone Adami
Joseph Tabone Adami
25 days ago

As we say locally “Kappell ma jmejjilx lil iehor”,

Can anything else be expected at the present? Not that any real steps to control the whole thing have ever been taken in the past,

Ask the residents of the nearby village of Munxar, and possible those on the outer edges of Fontana for their experience!!

S. Camilleri
S. Camilleri
25 days ago

Gozo. Worse than the Wild West. Sleaze is everywhere, with the help of Ministers who could not care less about the public interest. The PA once again shows itself to be impotent and totally useless; and that’s being generous.

Austin Sammut
Austin Sammut
24 days ago
Reply to  S. Camilleri

Very generous. Every board member and official should be investigated

Joseph
Joseph
25 days ago

Useless to repeat, Malta has become a Mafia state.
These oligarchs, or better gangsters because they break the law and still are untouchable, are making millions over millions with their illegalities..

Silvio Mifsud
Silvio Mifsud
24 days ago

When will we learn??? How could it be that illegalities are not stopped immediately, let alone after years!!! Neither the government MPs, nor the opposition MPs, not the Local council seem to have done anything to stop this illegality!!! Apart from the number of useless authorities we have!! Shameful!! Or are they all “being kept happy”.

Jonathan Bianco
Jonathan Bianco
23 days ago
Reply to  Silvio Mifsud

Actually it seems that action had been taken but Said using the law and the slow moving law courts manipulated the situation until his chance arrived. They mention ERA – I am sure this didn’t go through the correct channels but was signed and stamped behind a closed door as ERA are one of the better run govt entities. Obviously after this article, in a normal country an independent investigation wound be made, alas here it will just go by unnoticed and the normal law abiding citizen has now lost his/her appetite and interest to even bother anymore.

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