Illegal wall destabilising slope gets ‘second hearing’ thanks to PA appeals tribunal

For the second time the Planning Authority is to decide whether an illegal wall by the Gozo villa can be regularised

An aerial view of the area
An aerial view of the area

For the second time the Planning Authority is to decide whether an illegal wall by the Gozo villa formerly belonging to the late Agatha Barbara, can be regularised: its owners say the wall stabilised the clay slope and saves the villa from structural damage, but the PA case officer says it’s just an extension of a back-garden.

In 2015, the wall’s sanctioning was turned down by the PA, but that decision has now been overturned by the PA’s review tribunal.

The wall is set on Ghammar Hill, just opposite the Ta’ Pinu church.

The illegal works comprised the expansion of the villa’s back garden through excavations into the clay slops
The illegal works comprised the expansion of the villa’s back garden through excavations into the clay slops

The case officer insists that the excavation of the clay slope to build the wall itself “had a destabilising effect on the clay of the area”.

The illegal works also comprised the expansion of the villa’s back garden through excavations into the clay slope. Not only did these works result in a major overspill of construction material onto surrounding agricultural land, but also destabilised the clay slope.

The applicants deny the removal of any clay, and argue that the wall is clad in rubble so as to blend in with the surrounding landscape. “An amount of material was set aside for the reconstruction of the back wall which was already present on site. This same material would have been placed back in its original position after completion of the wall.”

While the PA’s review tribunal confirmed the structural damage to the villa, and reprimanded the owners for carrying out works without a permit, it has concluded that the major issue was that of mitigating the visual impact of the works and therefore asked the PA to reconsider the application.

The works were carried out in 2008, six years after the late President Agatha Barbara passed away. Residents from the nearby village of Ghasri had contacted MaltaToday to report trucks and tractors levelling the countryside surrounding the villa. The PA had back then reacted by issuing an enforcement order against the new development.

Subsequently the owners tried to legalise the works, claiming the wall was necessary to resist pressure from the clay slope threatening the stability of Villa Barbara. But a site inspection revealed that it was the illegal works that comprised the slope. Subsequently an application was presented aimed at regularising the illegal works and to reinstate the area with soil to its “original levels”.

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