Court Nullifies PA’s Nod to Controversial Gozo Apartment Block by Agius, Portelli

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Court Dismisses Approval of Controversial Development in Gozo

In what marks a significant legal victory for local Maltese countryside, a recent court decision has voided the endorsement previously granted by the Planning Authority (PA) as well as its appeal board, the Environment and Planning Tribunal (EPRT) on a debated developmental project in the scenic lands of rural Gozo. The aggressive urbanisation plan was conceived as a joint venture by developers Mark Agius and Joseph Portelli.

Description of Constructions

As per the initial blueprint submitted by the developers, the architectural plan detailed the construction of 22 housing flats, 15 garages, and an aesthetically appealing swimming pool in the town of Sannat. And the matter of concern arises as the layout also includes areas that fall beyond the sanctioned zones for developmental activities.

Objections Raised by the Planning Authority

The project was constantly under scrutiny due to its flagrant violation of the set guidelines and regulations outlined by the PA. Repeated suggestions were made by the PA’s assigned officer against giving a green signal to the project. Among the several reasons offered, the most prime ones highlighted the building’s setback and the inappropriate positioning of the swimming pool on Outside Development Zone (ODZ) land, which were in clear violation of the prescribed rules.

Initial Approval Despite Compliance Issues

Even under fierce opposition and objections raised from various quarters, surprisingly the boards of the PA and EPRT initially backed the project. Subsequently, this led to a public outcry and forced the heritage organisation, Din L-Art Ħelwa, to take this crucial matter to the law courts, protesting the unlawful approval.

Court Verdict in Gozo Development Case

The hearing for the case was presided over by Chief Justice Mark Chetcuti, who pronounced the judgment that negated the endorsed developmental plans citing misinterpretation of the extant policies by EPRT. The elemental areas of concern were primarily linked with the unprecedented approval for the construction of the swimming pool and the violation of the height requirements of the building as per the local layout plan of Gozo.

Outcome of the Court’s Intervention

The court’s verdict resulted in the revocation of Agius’ permit originally accepted by EPRT. Similarly, the building plans that included the swimming pool and an additional floor were also withdrawn. This ruling marks a triumphant victory for the Gozo countryside, safeguarding its intrinsic heritage and natural beauty from unsanctioned, uncontrolled urban sprawl.


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