The Malta Independent 12 May 2021, Wednesday

Applications for total of 125 apartments on Sannat fields draw ire

Albert Galea Tuesday, 4 May 2021, 11:31 Last update: about 7 days ago

Three separate applications for a total of 125 apartments on a tract of agricultural land in the Gozitan village of Sannat have drawn ire from the environmental community.

NGO Moviment Graffitti claimed that the applications – one of which has already been approved – are being presented separately in order to avoid proper scrutiny, despite being the same project.

Two of the applications are being fronted by Mark Agius, while the other by Joseph Vella – both known partners of Gozitan property magnate Joseph Portelli.

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The applications all share the same architect – Saviour Micallef.

They are all on agricultural land in the village of Sannat – on Triq it-Tempju tal-Imramma – some 300 metres away from the Gozitan cliffs.

Part of two of the applications also jut out into the Outside Development Zone (ODZ), while all three are planned to take the place of agricultural land.

One of the three applications, which is “to excavate site to construct 22 flats with 15 underlying garages and pool”, has already been approved by the Planning Authority, even though the case officer for the application had recommended that the application be refused.

The ERA had also protested against the development, saying that it “will lead to the unwarranted take-up of land falling Outside the Development Zone and would create an unprecedented pressure for similar requests, rendering a definitive boundary as subjective.”

“The proposed project should be rejected since it disregards a number of policies and regulations. Development zone boundaries should be respected and not treated subjectively. Any future similar development in the area should not be allowed”, the ERA had said.

Another application “to excavate site and construct 29 apartments, 30 basement garages and pool” is slated for right behind the already approved application mentioned above.

Likewise here, the ERA noted in its consultation that the project extends into ODZ land and that the land is designated as being of agricultural value, which means that “only development essential to the improvement and enhancement of the rural scene be approved”.

They also noted that the proposed development of four floors is not in line with the provisions of the local plan for the area, and said – like in the first case – that the disregard of the development zone boundary by approving this application would create “unprecedented pressure” for similar applications in the future.

“ERA recommends that such proposed project should be downsized and the proposed interventions extended over ODZ land are eliminated from the proposal”, the consultation reads.

The final application is in the same area and is to “excavate site and construct 74 flats and 60 garages.”

This particular area is within the development zone. 

Both the applications which haven’t come before the board are still waiting for a recommendation from the Planning Authority’s case officer, with a number of entities still yet to submit their consultation reports and opinions.

However the applications are now facing increased attention and protests, after being exposed by NGO Moviment Graffitti.

❗️OĠĠEZZJONAW GĦAL ŻVILUPP ENORMI FIS-SANNAT❗️ 👉 Tistgħu tużaw it-test tal-oġġezzjoni hawn isfel, u toġġezzjonaw billi...

Posted by Moviment Graffitti on Tuesday, May 4, 2021

The approved application already had almost 100 representations against it, and protests against the remaining two are already piling up in the PA’s database.

Moviment Graffitti said on Facebook that the application was “unacceptable” and that it was being fronted by business associates of property magnate Joseph Portelli.

“This is a classic example of bare-face abuse, as this application is in truth part of an enormous project which has been split into three different applications in order to give the impression that they are separate”, they said.

“This is so the project evades the necessary scrutiny and so it is easier for them to get approved”, they added.

They noted that it is not the first time that Portelli had resorted to such manoeuvres, noting how a block of 160 apartments in Qala, which his company was behind, was split into four different stages in order to avoid the need for an Environmental Impact Assessment and was then subsequently approved by the Planning Authority.

Moviment Graffitti together with the Qala local council are appealing the final stage of this project.

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