[WATCH] ‘Developers don’t create pressure. They run the country’, Graffitti activist tells MDA boss

Malta Developers Association president Sandro Chetcuti and Graffitti activist Andre Callus square up over the Planning Authority board’s decisions

MDA boss Sandro Chetcuti and Graffitti activist Andre Callus
MDA boss Sandro Chetcuti and Graffitti activist Andre Callus

The Malta Developers Association’s president Sandro Chetcuti has insisted construction outside development zones was more intense before the Planning Authority introduced the rural development guidelines.

Chetcuti dismissed the instances in which the Planning Authority (PA) had approved the construction of villas in the countryside on land where piles of rubble had once constituted a dwelling decades ago.

Speaking on TVM’s Xtra, Chetcuti tried to contradict comments from MaltaToday journalist James Debono who cited cases where villas were built, solely on the strength of the owners being able to prove the existence of a previous dwelling that had been demolished.

“Let’s be fair. Before the ODZ policy, everyone used to apply and do what they wanted,” Chetcuti said. “Even Valletta was built on ODZ,” the MDA boss stated glibly.

But he insisted that it was impossible to erect a villa on ODZ land where just a pile of rubble remained of a previous dwelling.  “Whoever is saying this is speaking nonsense. Today, whoever has a pile of rubble cannot turn it into a villa.”

But the PA has approved a two-storey dwelling instead of a pile of rubble in Sqaq il-Fata, Zabbar, as well as a 200 square metre villa in Mgarr on the pretext of a contract inked back in 1915 – among other similar cases.

During the programme, parliamentary secretary for planning Chris Agius said that planning policies were created with good intentions, but they also necessitated revision, while shadow minister Marthese Portelli said planning policies should leave no space for interpretation, referring to the spate of permits issued for ODZ fuel service stations.

Graffitti activist Andre Callus however said that the PA’s fuel service stations policy was clear. “The policy did not include that one can create a new petrol station; this was added after the consultation process following meetings with individuals. This was done on purpose to accommodate certain people.”

Callus said the problem with the policy was not that it allowed the relocation of petrol stations from urban areas, but that it allowed for 3,000 square metre complexes for shopping under the guise of petrol stations. “We don’t need more than 200 sq.m for a petrol station,” Callus said, adding that so far, the 15 pending applications would amount to five times the size of the Floriana Granaries.

Agreeing with Callus, Chetcuti said that the MDA had been against the policy from the beginning, but that he did not approve of the way Moviment Graffitti and Kamp Emergenza Ambjent staged their protest last week.

Here, Xtra presenter Saviour Balzan interjected to say that if it weren’t for the protest, no pressure would have ever been made on the fuel policy review. But Chetcuti said that PA board members should not be pressured into taking decisions based on “emotions”.

To this, Callus said that the board meetings were a “farce” as the decisions get made beforehand. “The board has approved over 90% of all applications, and only two or three persons would vote against. Developers don’t create pressure. They run the country.”

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