Qala council requests suspension of controversial Ta Kassja project until appeal is heard

Qala council asks PA appeals tribunal to halt ongoing works at the Ta Kassja development, until an appeal it has lodged along with Moviment Graffitti against the controversial project is heard

The Ta Kassja area before the controversial development began
The Ta Kassja area before the controversial development began

The Qala Local Council has requested the Planning Appeals Tribunal suspend the permit for the controversial Ta Kassja project which is partially located in an Outside Development Zone.

“It is unfair and unjust to allow the works to start while the appeal is pending, especially if the appeal extends over a long period of months, if not years,” a local council spokesperson said on Saturday.

“If the authorities are serious about protecting Gozo, they should at least suspend the works until the appeal is decided.”

Last April the Council had joined ranks with Moviment Graffitti and initiated legal proceedings against the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal to revoke the permit to construct a 63-apartment block in Ta’ Kassja.

The area is the last phase of a residential project of more than 160 apartments covering an area larger than three football pitches in an area known Ta’ Għar Boffa. The land taken up by the development also protrudes significantly beyond the development zone boundaries.

The decision to grant the permit was appealed on the grounds that the last application to be approved forms part of a much larger project that was split up into four different stages over a two-year period.

According to Moviment Graffitti, “This was done to fool people into thinking that these were separate, unrelated development applications filed under four different applicant names - all of which are connected to Joseph Portelli, including his daughter Chloe Portelli.

“This piecemeal approach enabled J Portelli Projects, the brains behind the massive residential project, to circumvent and evade the scrutiny that a project of such dimensions requires to assess its cumulative impact.”

The appellants also claim contradictory declarations were made by the applicants as regards the land’s ownership when the applications were filed. In two of the applications, the applicants declared that they were the sole owner of the entire land indicated on the site plan, a claim that had not been proven.

Accord9ing to Moviment Graffitti, “The fact that the development, of which around 100 apartments have already been built, was presented in different stages also paved the way for the gradual proliferation of the development onto ODZ land. This reveals the loopholes that exist in our planning policies and how they are shamelessly abused to serve the interests of some individuals, with great repercussions on our environment and communities.”

The land in question is also one registered on behalf of a medieval foundation that is basing its rights to the land in question on notarial deeds dating back to the 17th century.

“Many Gozitan families are being threatened with eviction from their homes unless they fork out substantial amounts of money,” Moviment Graffitti warned back in April.  “Several demands asking for the Gozo land-grab saga to be investigated and demanding justice for affected residents have so far fallen on deaf ears and have been ignored by the authorities.”