Former landowners compensated over Ċaqnu's Lidl supermarket

The Planning Authority refused three applications by the former landowners to develop a garden centre and low greenhouse, but eventually allowed Charles Polidano to construct a supermarket on the land

The Planning Authority (PA)  has been ordered to compensate landowners after granting Charles Polidano permission to build a supermarket on ODZ land he had bought at a knock off price due to the fact that the previous owners’ development applications were consistently refused.

The Cutajar family owned two tumoli of land in Luqa and had applied for permits to develop a garden centre there. This was denied by the Planning Authority on the grounds that the aim of developing the land was not agricultural but commercial, as a shop was also included in draft plans.

But a subsequent, new, planning application, for a development including trees and plants was also refused, primarily because the land was outside development zones (ODZ).

A third application for the conversion of most of the land into a low greenhouse for the production, storage and sale of agricultural produce was also refused.

The Cutajars had then sold off the land Charles Polidano at a low price because of the fact that it was well known that the three development applications had been rejected.

But after the sale was completed, the PA had, to the plaintiffs’ surprise, approved the construction of a supermarket on the land, without raising the objections that it had made to the plaintiffs.

The PA had rebutted the plaintiffs’ allegations of discrimination, saying that no development had taken place on the lands previously owned by the Cutajars and that there was no supermarket built on the land forming merits of this case or part of it.

The land had been sold to Polidano for Lm15,000 instead of Lm65,000 in 1988

A PA auditor had testified that the authority was objecting to him sending his report to the person who made the initial complaint. He had later sent it to the Cutajars after the Ombudsman had informed him that he could do so.

The court said it was contradictory that the authority took the Polidano development to be acceptable as an extension of an existing commercial zone when the same authority had been of the opinion that the plaintiffs’ development had been too commercial for the zone in which it was proposed.

It was also illogical that a garden centre be taken as a development that is too commercial for the zone when a supermarket was deemed acceptable, said the court.

The land in question would have been worth €564,295 in 2007 had it been sold with the necessary development permit but was sold to Polidano for the equivalent of just €233,000. The court ordered the authority to pay the plaintiffs the difference between the two figures of €331,295