Reason for refusal was addressed, Planning Authority says on Joseph Portelli's ODZ Qala pools

PA explains sanctioning of Joseph Portelli's ODZ Qala pools, says reason for refusal was addressed

The Planning Authority (PA) has granted permission for the sanctioning of two large swimming pools which developer Joseph Portelli had already started excavating despite not holding the proper permits. 

On Tuesday, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the two pools located in an outside development zone (ODZ) in Qala. 

The decision concerned a sanctioning application over illegal excavation works on a protected area in Qala. Portelli had started excavation works in the area to build a swimming pool, but had done so without the proper permits in hand. 

Both pools form part of wider plans to build a 164-apartment residential complex in the quaint Gozo village. Portelli split the project across five separate planning applications, bypassing requirements for an environmental impact assessment.

While all three members of the Planning Commission voted in favour, Qala mayor Paul Buttigieg objected to the project during Tusday's hearing. He argued that the project would negatively impact the aesthetics of Qala and its neighbouring villages. 

The planning case officer assigned to review the pools had originally recommended the application for refusal, but the Planning Commission chose to sanction the pools after the developer submitted new drawings. 

Reacting to the PA's decision, NGO Moviment Graffitti said that Portelli is wreaking havoc across Malta and Gozo, all with the blessing of the authorities. 

"A few weeks ago, the same Planning Commission led by Martin Camilleri approved another ODZ swimming pool by Portelli in the Xagħra valley," the NGO pointed out. 

Moviment Graffitti was first to report on the illegal excavation works by publishing photos of the site on its Facebook page. The photos were what prompted the PA to stop the works in the first place. 

In a statement, the PA explained that the Development Management Directorate had agreed to "favourably consider" the works since the original reason for refusal was addressed. 

"This followed the submission of fresh plans to address and mitigate the impact of excessive excavations by increasing the soil levels to respect the existing site topography of the area," the statement reads.