The Malta Independent 20 June 2021, Sunday

Former PN president Victor Scerri cleared of accusations of Bahrija illegalities

Thursday, 11 January 2018, 16:14 Last update: about 4 years ago

A judge today ruled that no illegalities were committed by the former president of the Nationalist Party, Victor Scerri, at Bahrija, as alleged by environmental NGO Ramblers Association.

The saga started nine years ago, and had pushed Scerri to resign his post to defend the case as a private citizen.

Mr Justice Joseph Zammit MacKeon handed down the judgment today.

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The issue was related to a controversy that erupted in 2009 over a permit granted to Scerri’s wife, Marthese Said, for the rehabilitation of a dilapidated farmhouse in Bahrija.

Planning permission given by the Planning Authority had raised eyebrows, as the development was situated in a sensitive ecological area outside the development zone.

A month after his resignation in 2009, the authority had revoked a permit to extend the farmhouse on the grounds that the set procedure had not been followed when the application was being processed.

In March 2010, the Ramblers’ Association launched legal proceedings against the Planning Authority, Scerri and his wife. The NGO requested the court to declare that all work should be declared illegal and to order the couple to restore the site to its original condition.

It based its case on the fact that an original permit had expired. However, in 2004, another permit was issued to alter some conditions of the original one.

The NGO argued that the second permit had not extended the validity of the original one.

In its decision, the court held that the 2004 permit was “independent with an autonomous existence” from the first and did not constitute a minor amendment.

The conclusion was based on the fact that a fresh, full development application had been submitted against a standard fee rather than a redacted one.

A new reference number had also been assigned and the application did not constitute a request for a reconsideration of the original permit.

Consequently, the judge ruled that when the original permit expired, it had no effect on the second one.

The court also ruled that the NGO had failed to produce evidence to substantiate its claim that the developer had committed certain irregularities.

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