‘It is an injustice, pure and simple’
A family is livid at the government for taking “agricultural land” away from them, only to then incorporate it in a proposed sports village.
The expropriation took place just a week before the area’s local plans were modified by the planning authority.
The Camenzulis are now locked in a legal battle with the government over the expropriation of 5,000 square metres of their land in Marsa.
Marked as a road in the area’s 2006 local plan, the land was accordingly valued at €75,000 by the government. The week after the expropriation notice was issued, the Malta Environment and Planning Authority granted permission for the land to be turned into an integral part of the proposed Marsa Sports Village.
The government said it wanted to give the land to the private sector to build a hotel, restaurants and gambling facilities as part of the sports village project.
“According to the expropriation notice, the land is needed for public use. But the government took the land away while valuing it as agricultural land, only to get it approved for development just a week later. Now they want to hand it over to someone to use it as part of his private business. Is that fair?” asked entrepreneur Louena Aquilina.
She felt it was “odd” that the government had been confident enough of obtaining planning permission to go ahead with the expropriation.
“The Mepa board is independent. What made the government so sure it would be granted permission?”
Mrs Aquilina is the daughter of one of the land’s titled owners, David Camenzuli, who insisted that the expropriation had been underhand from the start.
“Nobody told us. We only found out about the expropriation when the man owning the neighbouring land came to tell us about a planning notice he had come across,” said Mr Camenzuli.
According to a spokesman at the Land Ministry, expropriations are listed in the Government Gazette, the media and the local council where the land is located.
Mrs Aquilina insisted there was no such notification at Marsa local council. “I went there specifically to check and there was nothing. Had we not been told by our neighbour, we’d have never known and missed the appeal deadline date. And I suspect that’s what they were hoping would happen.”
A ministry spokesman said there was nothing odd about the one-week period between the land being expropriated and development permits being issued.
Requests to expropriate land had to be submitted to the Government Property Division at the same time as planning permit applications were filed.
“It is up to the government entity doing the project to obtain the permits. It is not the Government Property Division’s responsibility to see whether the necessary permits were obtained.”
A Mepa spokesman confirmed that reviews to the local plan in question were published and opened to public consultation in October 2011.
The revisions were subsequently endorsed the following January, when the Camenzulis’ land was expropriated.
A spokesman for the Sports Parliamentary Secretary also defended the decision to expropriate this area, saying this was always done carefully and only in the public interest.
He admitted that the government intended involving a third party to develop the land, adding that this would generate new jobs and benefit the sports community and the public.
Mrs Aquilina remains unimpressed by this defence.
“Why should someone be allowed to build a hotel and restaurant on my land?”
A court case concerning the expropriation is ongoing and a determined Mrs Aquilina said the family would petition the European Court of Human Rights if the domestic courts found for the government.
“It is an injustice, pure and simple. We’re not going to sit by and watch as others make a little fortune from land that’s ours,” she promised.