Labour ramps up pressure over PN MP's ODZ villa application

PL accuses Toni Bezzina of submitting a fraudulent planning application to gain approval for an ODZ villa  

Labour MP Clifton Grima and tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis address a press conference
Labour MP Clifton Grima and tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis address a press conference

The Labour Party has challenged Simon Busuttil to take action against Toni Bezzina, in the wake of allegations that the PN MP had submitted a fraudulent planning application so as to gain approval for a proposed villa in land outside development zones.

PL newspaper Kullhadd reported on Sunday that Bezzina's application had included a non-existent 31 square metre room on a plot of land that was only occupied by a wall. The room would have pushed the Rabat land above the 100 square metres of existing buildings required by the rural policy under which Bezzina filed his application.

Bezzina, who withdrew the application after it was first seized on by Labour media, has sued Kullhadd for libel and has accused the paper of manipulating photos to hide the room referred to in is planning permit application.

PL newspaper Kullhadd reported on Sunday that Bezzina's application had included a non-existent 31 square metre room on a plot of land that was only occupied by a wall
PL newspaper Kullhadd reported on Sunday that Bezzina's application had included a non-existent 31 square metre room on a plot of land that was only occupied by a wall

Tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis said that the case exposed Bezzina's "gross hypocrisy", given that he had co-authored a recent PN policy document on the environment which included the party's belief that "ODZ is ODZ".

"Bezzina had said that his application was regular, legal and according to policies, but there is now serious doubt on whether this was truly the case," Zammit Lewis told a press conference at the PL headquarters.

"Yet, beyond the legal aspect, we cannot accept a state of play whereby an MP who co-authored an environment policy document, takes action that is diametrically opposed to what he is supposed to believe in."

Bezzina’s application was only made possible by virtue of a rural development policy passed by the current administration that allows the construction of villas in ODZ land on which old buildings used to be sited.

However, when asked by MaltaToday, the minister said that he had no problem with the policy itself but that Bezzina shouldn’t have taken advantage of it.

“It is politically contradictory for an MP to protest against the construction of the American University of Malta in ODZ land, while at the same time applying to build a villa on ODZ land,” he said. “We never said that the rural policy is wrong, merely that Bezzina should shoulder political responsibility.”

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