Updated: Approved plans for Qala villa withdrawn after public outrage; permit ‘should be revoked’
updated approved plans for qala villa withdrawn after public outrage permit should be revoked - Updated: Approved plans for Qala villa withdrawn after public outrage; permit 'should be revoked'

Gozitan businessman Joseph Portelli said he was withdrawing plans to build a villa in Qali – which were approved by the Planning Authority this week – following public outrage.

In a statement, the construction magnate said that a decision had been taken to “voluntarily renounce this permit with immediate effect”.

The Planning Authority’s approval for the countryside villa had led to criticism from NGOs, Opposition and Labour exponents including former Prime Minister Alfred Sant, ONE chairman Jason Micallef and MEP candidate Cyrus Engerer.

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The Qala local council, with a Labour majority, had announced it would be appealing the ruling.

On Saturday, J Portelli Projects issued a statement saying its project had been “singled out by the Planning Authority and the media”.

The company said that “tens if not hundreds” of similar applications on similar sites in Outside Development Zones had been approved in the past.

“Some of these applications were granted permits for the erection of residences on sites which merely consisted of foundations of previous buildings,” the company said.

It also registered its disapproval for how the Planning Authority had handled this particular application, saying PA case officers had made submissions when the case was before the planning commission, which it had not done in any other case over the past six years.

“We never demanded any favours from the authority. Yet we would never accept to be treated differently from others,” the company said.

“The authority must ensure that its policies are clear in their application are applied in an indiscriminate manner.”

The company insisted it had carried out extensive research which confirmed that the property had been used as a residence in the past.

“In our case we believed that the building that still exists on site merited restoration and made a request to add extensions to it. We also agreed to amend the plans and further reduce the extension, which extension is limited to additions attached to and linked to the current building.”

The company however claims the PA had gone to lengths to put the Portelli project under extensive scrutiny, by sending case officers to make their submissions at the sitting of the PA’s planning commission, “something the authority has not done in any case over the last six years. The case was also requested to be undelegated and heard before the planning board.”

In a statement, independent candidate Arnold Cassola said that now that Portelli has voluntarily renounced his Qala permit, the Planning Authority is duty bound to revoke the permit.

“If the PA does not revoke it, the permit remains legally valid. So please, next Monday, the first thing the Planning Authority should do is revoking the permit,” he said.

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