The Planning Authority has initiated enforcement action over illegal works on a strip of land that stretches to the cliff’s edge near Ta Cenc, a sensitive area protected as an EU-level Natura 2000 site and Special Area of Conservation.
The cliffs are home to the largest colony of scopoli’s shearwaters in the Maltese Islands.
The works by Excel Investments Limited – owned by the Joseph Portelli (majority shareholder), the Agius brothers (Ta Dirjanu) and Daniel Refalo – included constructing six round incomplete structures, reconstructing rubble walls, extending dirt road and creating ramps in fields, as well as inserting large-diameter PVC pipes in the walls.
The PVC pipes have since been removed, and work on the half-built round structures – thought to have been shaping up as corbelled huts – has not proceeded since this website revealed the extensive works in an investigation published last February.
Since then, this website has published a series of investigative articles, with the most recent revelation being the presence of PVC pipes and pipework for water provision embedded in a stretch of wall built by the Sannat Local Council. The stretch of council-built wall divides the land owned by Excel and a dirt track.
The mayor, Philip Vella, who lives around the corner, has maintained in answers to this website that he had no knowledge of the PVC pipes embedded in the wall – and covered by stones – and the pipework for water provision.
The PVC pipes in the council-built wall, funded by EU and national funds, were hoisted out of the walls by crane mounted on pickup trucks around two weeks ago, days after the police opened an investigation. This website has published pictures of the workmen removing the PVC pipes.
The wall built by the council does not seem to be covered by the Planning Authority’s enforcement action. The council did not apply for a permit, even though the law specifies that walls that are dismantled or demolished and rebuilt have to have a planning permit.
The works covered by the Planning Authority’s enforcement action fall on land that is part of a larger strip, amounting to around three football pitches in size, that stretches from the fringes of the development zone to the cliff’s edge. Excel has been developing a cluster of blocks of flats at the built-up end of its strip of land. Permission for 124 flats has already been granted, and there is now an application for 24 more.
All Planning Authority permits have been appealed by NGOs, with the latest appeal filed by Moviment Grafitti around two weeks ago.
There is also an ongoing application for 4 stables. The applicant, Marlon Mercieca, bought the field on which he applied for the stables from Excel. The wall along the perimeter of the field was built at the same time that Excel built the wall (and after Mercieca had bought the land) – with part of it, on one side, being part of the council-build wall. There were also PVC pipes in the wall along perimeter of Mercieca’s fields, something that suggests that this is linked to the wider works on Excel’s land.
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Five investigative articles on these works and land has been published on this website over a span of 4 months – these have served to reveal and rally, and made a difference. These investigations also took much effort, time, and resources to produce, but income from donations – Victor Paul Borg relies on donations for income and to fund journalistic investigations – has been very low. You can see this on the donation page, which is uniquely transparent, with targeted amounts that allow tracking of donations in real time on the page. Click on the button below to find out, and consider contributing to sustain active journalism that makes an impact.