Siggiewi illegalities: developers play cat and mouse with PA

The enforcement action that was due to take place over various illegalities on the Ta' Zgamardi site in Siggiewi will be delayed  

The enforcement order was issued in November against Univest Enterprises, a construction company
The enforcement order was issued in November against Univest Enterprises, a construction company

An enforcement action that was set to take place against various illegalities on the Ta’ Zgamardi site in Siggiewi, will be delayed over the owners’ application to regularise the planning abuses.

That means the Planning Authority will have to process the application before taking direct action on the illegalities, which include the excavation of soil, the demolition and removal of several boundary walls surrounding the site, the change of use from an agricultural site to one used for parking heavy construction vehicles, and the storage of steel rods used in the pre-fabrication of concrete.

The enforcement order was issued in November against Univest Enterprises, a construction company.

The PA had ordered Univest to stop any further work and reinstate the field to its original state within 15 days of its notice, on pain of a daily fine.

But two different sources told MaltaToday that works actually continued despite the enforcement order. Nationalist MEP candidate Michael Briguglio, who had originally reported the case to the PA last month after receiving complaints from residents, reported the continuing works to the PA’s enforcement unit after the site was covered by a green net. He also reported that a tower crane was still present on the site.

A PA spokesperson told MaltaToday that “no further excavation works were noted on the site”. When asked what action had the PA actually taken after the expiry of the 15-day period, the spokesperson revealed that a sanctioning application had been submitted. The application has yet to be published on the PA’s website.

The site has a long history of planning enforcements, while the owner’s attempts at regularising have always failed.

In 2004, an enforcement order was issued against a permit-less stonewall and excavation works. But 18 years later the case is still listed as “pending direct action”. The PA had already refused an application to regularise these works in 2006.

In 2008, the PA issued another enforcement order against the “construction of a large warehouse, garages, stables and boundary walls without permit.” Ten years later the case is listed as having been referred for “direct action vetting”. Owner Epiphanio Mifsud appealed the enforcement order, and his appeal was rejected by the PA’s appeals tribunal in 2011. Another application to sanction the illegalities was later dismissed by the PA and confirmed on appeal in 2013.

Indeed, rules introduced in 2011 had stopped allowing the PA to regularise development outside development zones that took place after 2008. But these rules were reversed in the new planning laws of 2014 – which means developers can still apply to sanction illegalities outside development zones.

Still, the conversion of agricultural land for industrial uses is not foreseen by the PA’s rural policy, making such an approval highly unlikely.

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