The architect facing calls for a police investigation, Deborah Busuttil, remains listed as a board member of the Planning Board on the eve of a meeting and decision on the largest – and highly contentious – block of flats to be yet proposed for the buffer zone of Ggantija Temples.

Busuttil is the project architect of another building in the Ggantija buffer zone, situated on Marija Bambina Street, over which six NGOs yesterday called on the police to investigate and proceed against Busuttil in terms of Article 188 of the Criminal Code. That provision makes it an offence, punishable by a fine or imprisonment of up to 2 years, for anyone to knowingly give false information to a public authority to gain a benefit or advantage for oneself or someone else.  

Extract of Article 188 of the Criminal Code

The NGOs issued yesterday’s press release after this website revealed last Saturday that Busuttil had prepared an architectural drawing in a development application on Marija Bambina Street that featured two rooftop rooms on buildings adjacent to the site that do not exist. The drawing, called streetscape elevation, is one of the submission requirements introduced in 2015 to facilitate “understanding of the development planning application, in terms of what has been taken into account from the surrounding context and frame the development proposal within the broader contextual considerations.”

Infographic of the streetscape elevation – click to enlarge

As this website reported last Saturday, Busuttil’s drawing is fraudulent in terms of planning law

Extract from planning law – click to enlarge

A legal source consulted by this website yesterday also said that in his opinion it is also an offence under Article 188 of the Criminal Code.  Busuttil did not respond to a request for comment on this point. 

Busuttil is a prolific architect when it comes to presenting development applications, with a high rate of approvals. She also sits on the Planning Board, having been chosen and appointed to the board by Planning Minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi in July of 2022.

The Planning Board is the Planning Authority’s highest board when it comes to deciding on development applications.

The development on Triq Marija Bambina is particularly sensitive given the location: situated 60 metres from Ta Kola Windmill and within the buffer zone of Ggantija Temples. The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage had called for rejection of the proposal due to the building’s impact on the view of the windmill. Yet the permit was granted by the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, overturning a refusal by the Planning Authority. 

The statement by the NGOs heaps pressure on the Planning Authority on the eve of a meeting tomorrow that is set to decide on a proposal for the largest building ever proposed in the buffer zone of Ggantija Temples.

There are currently four pending applications for blocks of flats in a part of the buffer zone that until now has largely survived as an enclave of two-storey townhouses. The director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre has called for Heritage Impact Assessments before approving any of the developments, but no impact assessments have been carried out.

Deborah Busuttil did not attend the last meeting of one of the blocks of flats in which the Planning Board approved the proposal two weeks ago. At the time, the chairperson of the board said that Busuttil had not attended after she had declared that she had “a conflict of interest.”

The impact of a development approved last month on the skyline

Busuttil did not reply to this website’s question on whether that conflict of interest is due to her work on the development at Marija Bambina Street over which she is now facing calls for resignation and a police investigation. That building is situated 80 metres away from the flats approved by the Planning Board in the meeting that Busuttil did not attend.

Yet Busuttil did attend the previous meetings of the board on the same case, and this raises questions over the reason why she did not attend only for the last meeting on the case. During the two previous meetings, the development in Marija Bambina Street was subject to an appeal and hence still pending, while it had been decided before the last meeting. In this context, if the recusal had been due to the development on Marija Bambina Street, it would have made more sense to abstain from meetings when her project was still pending decision rather than after her project had been decided.

Asked why she decided to recuse herself from the last meeting only, Busuttil did not reply.

The development granted permit on Triq Marija Bambina was described as a “residential dwelling” by the applicant, Louis Stellini, who also told the tribunal that he “seeks to develop the property into a dwelling and not some hideous, small apartments.”

Yet the development has nine ensuite bedrooms, two additional bathrooms on the ground floor (one of them situated in the “hall” or stairwell), a large kitchen, and a small room at the front that is labelled as “living.” This means it has a total of 11 bathrooms, and it seems more of a guesthouse or small hotel than a family house.

Asked if he would be opening a guesthouse via text message, Stellini did not reply.

Screenshot of a Facebook post (Louis Stellini on left) of New Year's celebrations posted by Justyne Caruana when she was Minister for Gozo – the screenshot is for illustration purposes, this website makes no suggestion or insinuation that Caruana was involved in any way in Stellini's development applications (the tribunal decided on Stellini's application more than a year after Caruana had quit politics)

Sources have told this website that Stellini works as the official in charge of the garage that holds vehicles of the Gozo Ministry’s Construction and Maintenance Section. The sources also said that the house on Marija Bambina Street used to belong to the late father of Stellini’s wife.

The press release issued yesterday was signed by seven NGOs: Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar, Moviment Graffitti, Ramblers’ Assocation of Malta, Friends of the Earth Malta, Birdlife Malta, Nature Trust Malta, and Għawdix.