Kalanka developer wants big agricultural store instead of three rural rooms

ERA is 'strongly' objecting to an application proposing the replacement of three separate rural rooms previously used as bird hides with one larger building in Kalanka

The land in Kalanka where the store is being proposed
The land in Kalanka where the store is being proposed

The Environment and Resources Authority is “strongly” objecting to an application proposing the replacement of three separate rural rooms previously used as bird hides with one larger building in Kalanka, Delimara.

The application has been presented by Kenneth Abela, a registered farmer and developer, who is also proposing the reconstruction of the nearby Kalanka hotel over a larger footprint.  

It was only last year that two of the structures – previously used as trapping hides – were regularised by the Planning Authority to be turned into agricultural stores despite strong objections by the Environment and Resources Authority. 

Now Abela wants to demolish these structures and an older structure and replace them with a store built over 62m2.

The new store, which will have a ground floor and basement level, will include an underground level and will consist of a fertilizer store, a honey and bee hive store and a tractor shed.

Din l-Art Helwa has described the application as an attempt “to demolish little rural rooms to amalgamate the footprint of these structures into one large building” which contrasts with the rural landscape.

In a separate application Abela has also applied for four 41m2 glass houses in an area which according to ERA is not an agricultural area. 

The proposed development is located within the scheduled coastal cliffs, which are afforded a Level 2 degree of protection as an Area of Ecological Importance

ERA has shot down the latest two applications noting that “it is evident that the applicant is using the application approved last year as a stepping stone to gain further development permissions to commit a site with piecemeal developments”.

According to ERA the current planning applications (PA 3653/17 & PA 3698/17) also reflect previous ERA concerns: “once initial permission/s is granted, further extensions/ancillary facilities, inevitably follow, altering the site’s natural character to a different setting”.

In a report on the previous application, the ERA noted that over the years, the site has been systematically altered with apparent land scarring as a result of bird trapping activity. 

This was carried out before Abela took over the land in question and decided to stop these activities.

But the ERA also pointed that through his applications Abela “is seeking to reclaim the remaining karstland and through further soil deposition” to be used as a leverage to obtain permission for the sanctioning of the existing structures on site (bird hides) and the construction of new ancillary facilities. 

Interviewed by MaltaToday last year Abela, a registered farmer and owner of a billboard company, had justified his interventions in the area as a way to eradicate illegalities on the site.

The entrepreneur proposing to redevelop a derelict hotel at il-Kalanka in Delimara has also acquired 23,135 square metres of rural land in the vicinity of the proposed hotel.

Abela acquired the land in July 2014, over a year before submitting his application to rebuild the derelict hotel. He insists that his sole interest in the land is agricultural. 

Part of the land already belonged to Abela’s family since the early 1990s and was bought directly for €110,000 from Arken Limited, a company belonging to Kenneth Abela and his brother Aaron. Another portion, a one-twelfth share of a larger 90,000 square metre property, was bought for €90,000 from the Moroni Testaferrata Viani estate.  

Abela signed a promise-of-sale agreement for the Delimara hotel in June 2015, before acquiring it in August.

Apart from regularising the two rural structures the PA also has ignored the ERA in approving a 100 metre long and 1.8 metre high wall around the derelict Delimara hotel. Indigenous shrubs will screen the wall.

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