Gozo Land Grab

Joseph Portelli’s application for flats on medieval foundation land largest development proposal yet for the rural area

An investigation by this website has found compelling evidence that property magnate Joseph Portelli and his partners are behind a development application for a block of 17 flats in a rural hamlet on the outskirts of Qala.

The five-storey block would dominate the area that consists of a cluster of mostly two-storey houses on the way to Hondoq Ir-Rummien. It is located in a narrow part of the street – already a bottleneck for traffic flow – and as such it would constrict traffic flow even further. Traffic and parking – the proposed project only has four garages – is one of arguments that various objectors have raised in submissions to the Planning Authority.

Approximate digital rendition of the size of the proposed block of flats

The applicant, Jason Saliba, declared in the application form that he is not the landowner, but he is “authorized to carry out the development through an agreement with the owner.”

Investigations by this website have found that someone named Jason Saliba is employed as a builder with PRA Construction Limited, a company owned by Joseph Portelli and two of his business partners, the Agius brothers (Ta Dirjanu) and Daniel Refalo. Portelli, the Agius brothers, and Refalo are also the owners of Excel Investments Limited, the company they use for many of their developments in Gozo.

This website’s attempt to get confirmation of the findings that Excel is the developer – in a phone conversation with Mark Agius, one of the directors of PRA Construction and Excel – was unsuccessful.

The site of the proposed development marked in red

The site is part of a larger area belonging to the Beneficcju ta Sant Antonio delli Navarra. It is the latest in the moves to develop foundation land with blocks of flats – hundreds of blocks of flats are in the process of being constructed or in ongoing applications.

The largest of those projects is situated a couple of hundred metres up the road, where Excel Investments Limited, belonging to Joseph Portelli and his partners, are constructing more than 150 flats on foundation land.

The proposed block of 17 flats would add a substantial load on the infrastructure of the rural area. Aside from the traffic flow on the narrower stretch of street, there is also the load on the electricity provisions – Enemalta, the State electricity provider, has already written to the Planning Authority on this matter.

Enemalta wrote that “for this development”, a substation has to be constructed within the “proposed development so that an adequate electricity supply can be provided.”

The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage separately highlighted the presence of caves on site that have “to be retained.” It also said that the “volumes [of the building] as proposed are not acceptable.”

The Qala Local Council also wrote to the Planning Authority to register its interest in the application for 17 flats.

The council has separately appealed against another development up the street, in which a permit for a block of eight flats was granted to Euchar Vella of Karkanja Developments Ltd late last year. Appeal proceedings in that case are ongoing.  

Featured Image: Approximate digital rendition of the proposed block of flats

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