Planning Tribunal

Tribunal suspends works on Joseph Portelli’s 54 flats near duckpond in valley

It is relatively rare for the tribunal to suspend works during appeal

The Environment and Planning Review Tribunal (EPRT) two weeks ago suspended the commencement of work on a block of 54 flats and 36 garages at Ta Zejta Valley. The development, which was granted permit last July, belongs to property magnate Joseph Portelli and two partners who together own a company called Excel Investments Limited.

The tribunal, which hears appeals against Planning Authority decisions, suspended the works after a request was made in an ongoing appeal against the permit filed by Mr Justice Grazio Mercieca, who lives in the area. The NGO Din L-Art Helwa has also joined the appeal.

Flats have been on sale off-plan for months. In one Facebook post last August, the flats were being advertised for a starting price of €130,000 “excluding common parts.”

Artist's impression of the block of flats used to promote sales (Source: Facebook)

It is relatively rare for the tribunal to suspend works during the appeal. NGOs, and other appellants, often lament of construction reaching an advanced stage or even completed before an appeal is decided – one of the elements that has led to a widespread loss of confidence in the tribunal.

The tribunal normally only suspends works if the development is located in the countryside or Urban Conservation Areas, or if it impacts cultural heritage.

The flats at Ta Zejta are within the development zone, but the tribunal suspended the works after the appellant argued that excavation for the undergound garages would have an irreversible impact on the aquifer and the watercourse, which lies less than 10 metres away. The appellant also argued that excavations of the clay-heavy ground could destabilise the road and the adjacent properties and, “if piling is utilized, the perched aquifer will result in further penetrations and further irreversible damage.”

Artist's impression of the flats used in promotion (Source: Facebook)

The tribunal suspended the works for three months, the maximum provided in law. The law also specifies that if works are suspended the tribunal would have to rule on the appeal within the three-month suspension period.

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