The architect, the judge, the house and the illegal driveway

The illegal access road in Wied Qirda leading to a house occupied by Judge Consuelo Scerri Herrera and government consultant Robert Musumeci.

An illegal access road in Wied Qirda recently surfaced with tarmac by Transport Malta leads to a house occupied by Judge Consuelo Scerri Herrera and government consultant Robert Musumeci.

The stretch of valley outside Siġġiewi was illegally covered in concrete more than 10 years ago, blocking a natural watercourse and forming a ‘driveway’ from the connecting Triq Tal-Għaqba to the residence, a farmhouse which has been formed gradually out of part of an olive farm and winery.

The Planning Authority issued an enforcement notice – still listed as pending direct action – over the illegally deposited concrete in 2007, long before Dr Musumeci and Dr Scerri Herrera acquired the farmhouse. Earlier this month, the concrete driveway was covered in tarmac along with the whole of Triq Tal-Għaqba, effectively establishing the illegal valley development as part of the connecting road.

Speaking to the Sunday Times of Malta, Dr Musumeci confirmed that he occupied the property but insisted he had not had any prior knowledge of or involvement with the works. “I had no contact whatsoever with any Transport Malta official regarding any road works. The works in question were presumably visible to all and sundry,” he said.

Transport Malta has previously confirmed that it carried out the asphalting works but declined to state why it had extended the resurfacing works onto an illegal private development, or whether it was aware that the concreted surface was illegal when the works were carried out.

The PA did not respond to questions on whether it was aware of the works and whether any action would be taken. Road resurfacing works do not require a planning permit.

The farmhouse occupied by Dr Musumeci and Dr Scerri Herrera was legally considered an olive and wine production facility when an application was submitted in 2015 by the owner at the time (with Dr Musumeci as architect) for an “extension to dwelling and construction of swimming pool”.

However, the case officer noted in the assessment that the farmhouse was not legally a dwelling and that the application would therefore create a new dwelling outside development zones, running counter to planning policy.

The Environment Protection Directorate also raised concerns, arguing that the proposal, and other developments on site and in the surrounding area, “contribute to adverse impacts on the environmental qualities of the countryside and its rural character”. Despite these concerns and case officer’s recommendation that the proposed conversion be turned down, PA granted the permit in 2016 on the basis of a policy allowing the conversion of architecturally significant ODZ buildings to dwellings.

Apart from the farmhouse, the road also connects to an adjoining property, not owned or occupied by Dr Musumeci, which has been the subject of several enforcement notices over two decades, first for the illegal development of stables and paddocks, then for the illegal conversion of the stables into a residence. The stables were sanctioned in 2008 after several failed attempts, while a sanctioning request for the residence and other illegalities is pending before the PA.

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