NGOs want PM to halt Qajjenza bid to turn public land into private profit

Permit for submission of Qajjenza application should be withdrawn following Prime Minister’s commitment last Sunday, NGOs say

The gas tanks at the Qajjenza facility were dismantled after Enemalta divested itself of the LPG sector
The gas tanks at the Qajjenza facility were dismantled after Enemalta divested itself of the LPG sector

NGOs Graffitti and Għaqda Storja u Kultura Birżebbuġa and Marsaxlokk Heritage have called on Prime Minister Robert Abela to halt the processing of a planning application to chage the local plan for Qajjenza in Birżebbuġa.

This application, submitted by developer Paul Attard, seeks to change the local plan so that it allows a staggering six blocks of apartments and offices, going up to eight storeys, on the former Enemalta gas storage facility in Qajjenza, Birżebbuġa.

The application is by Katari Holdings, a company that was revealed to have paid former prime minister Joseph Muscat a total consultancy fee of €30,000 between 2020 and 2021.

Last Sunday, Prime Minister Robert Abela declared during a political activity that “whatever land is under the government’s control... that land will only be used for the benefit of the community.”

Moviment Graffitti said the NGO now expected Abela to take action that halts the processing of application PC/00022/23.

Over two-thirds of the land covered by the planning control application is owned either by the government company Enemalta or the Lands Authority. “The developer had to obtain the Government’s go-ahead prior to filing the application for this monstrous development. Such permission signals the public entities’ intention of eventually transferring this land to the developer for his private real estate project consisting in hundreds of apartments and commercial buildings,” Graffitti said.

“Application PC/00022/23 represents a very serious threat to Birżebbuġa and Marsaxlokk since it would pave the way for a very intensive and obtrusive development, right next to the coast, and abutting ODZ land.”

The application has attracted hundreds of objections from residents and other concerned individuals.

In April, the residents’ organisations Għaqda Storja u Kultura Birżebbuġa and Marsaxlokk Heritage wrote to Minister Miriam Dalli expressing their alarm on the Qajjenza situation. They stated that, after decades of inconvenience from the Enemalta operation on this site, “it is unfair that residents have to now face the threat of such a monstrosity”.

The residents’ organisations demanded that the site in question remains public and be utilized for the common good rather than private profits.

No reply was given by Minister Dalli to their letter.

Qajjenza is the most congested area in Birżebbuġa, densely populated and severely lacking in public spaces essential to residents’ health and wellbeing.

“The former Enemalta gas plant has great potential for a community-based project that can be enjoyed by everyone. On the other hand, should it be transformed into the massive development proposed by PC/00022/23, it will lead to a sharp drop in the quality of life and environment within the surrounding areas,” Graffitti said.

“The Prime Minister’s declaration on Sunday, if followed through, would signify the end of such a harmful plan on Government-controlled land. We augur that the commitment taken by the Prime Minister is translated into tangible actions and that the public entities controlling the Qajjenza Enemalta site withdraw their permission for the processing of application PC/00022/23.”