The Malta Independent 19 January 2020, Sunday

Exclusive - San Blas: The 'illegal' plot thickens

Malta Independent Thursday, 3 July 2014, 10:47 Last update: about 6 years ago

A kiosk at San Blas offering umbrella and deckchair rentals, as well as the odd burger and bottle of wine to tourists and locals alike was hit with an enforcement notice in 2009 yet continues to operate to this very day.

The case status of the 2009 enforcement notice is listed as “pending direct action” on MEPA’s website. The enforcement notice was slapped on the kiosk for “change of use of land to cooking and serving food and hiring of deckchairs and umbrellas,” according to the MEPA case report.

Direct action may involve sealing off the premises or removing the illegality, MEPA states on its website, yet no action appears to have been taken for five years.

A member of the public who filed a complaint in June with MEPA about the kiosk was informed that “when all the investigations are concluded you will be informed accordingly.”

In a statement, MEPA insisted that the complaint about the kiosk and the illegal development carried out by hotelier Joseph Portelli are two separate issues, and the latter was only drawn to MEPA’s attention following a report in the Malta Independent on Sunday.

“The Authority can confirm that the complaint it had received on the 18th June 2014 by a member of the public was not related to the placing of a metal gate or canopy structure but to a kiosk and the placing of chairs and tables at another site within the San Blas area. In fact the Authority on the 25th June 2014 had informed the complainant that the illegal kiosk was already covered by an enforcement notice (ECF 867/09).

“Following illegal works carried out at another site within the San Blas area at the end of last week and reported in a local newspaper, the Authority on Monday immediately investigated the case and issued an enforcement notice (ECF139/14) whereby the contravener was requested to reinstate the site, the statement said.

Environmentalist Astrid Vella rebutted the claim that the report sent to MEPA about abuse at San Blas was “limited to the kiosk, chairs and tables, and MEPA knows that.”

“MEPA has an enforcement team in Gozo who could go over in minutes, it's not like they had to come up from Malta. What was the reason for them not going on the spot to investigate the other issues mentioned in the report,” she said.

Gozo Minister Anton Refalo condemned the ‘illegal’ development, saying “Gozo must remain the diamond that it is.”

Portelli carried out works on public land

In the meantime this media house confirmed that illegal works that were stopped by MEPA on Monday were carried out on public land.

Gozitan developer Joseph Portelli has claimed that he purchased the land on which works were carried out. But Lands Registry maps clearly show that the southernmost part of the land claimed by Mr Portelli as his own – and on which he erected a metal frame and cleared vegetation – belongs to the public. 

The area shaded in pink on the map is public land. The two Xs show the area where Mr Portelli erected the metal structure. It is clearly part of the land registered as a public area in 2002.

This paper confirmed that the rest of the fields to the north are privately owned. Mr Portelli is expected to formally acquire most of these fields on Friday, when he will sign a final contract of sale with the owners – a family with the surname Micallef.

When interviewed by this paper on Monday, Mr Portelli claimed that the Lands Registry registering process had “overlapped” onto part of the land which he claims now belongs to him.

In the past few weeks Mr Portelli has removed all vegetation from the disputed land, repaired rubble walls and installed a metal frame for an awning, which was anchored to the ground with concrete. MEPA said on Monday that these works were carried out without the necessary permits and ordered Mr Portelli to halt all development. The planning authority also imposed daily fines of a maximum of €50. 

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