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Court upholds curia writ over Spinola Palace

The Civil Court has upheld a writ filed by the Archbishop's Curia as administrator of the Diocesan Religious Entities against the Commissioner of Land over the expropriation of Spinola Palace.

The curia claimed that on February 21, 1975, the government had expropriated, under title of possession and use, the building known as Spinola Palace, at Spinola, and the land adjacent to the palace.

As compensation, the commissioner had offered the sum of Lm110 per year but this was not accepted by the curia.

The Rent Regulation Board was requested by the curia to establish the adequate compensation for the expropriation of the palace and of part of its grounds that were logically considered to form an integral part of the palace.

Plaintiff submitted before the Rent Regulation Board that the remainder of the land ought to be considered as a building site and that its value was to be established by the Land Arbitration Board.

The Rent Regulation Board had ordered plaintiff to refer the matter to the Civil Court for a ruling on this issue.

In its writ filed before the court, the curia had submitted that it was obvious that not all the area expropriated by the commissioner could be considered as "an old urban tenement" according to law but that this definition applied only to the palace and the land forming an integral part of it.

The remainder of the land ought to be considered a building site.

The curia therefore requested the court to declare that not all the land was to be considered as "an old urban tenement" and to declare that the land forming part of Spinola Palace was to be considered a building site.

Compensation for the land classified as a building site was to be established by the Land Arbitration Board.

Mr Justice Philip Sciberras in the Civil Court noted that the commissioner was entitled to acquire private property by three means including that of possession and use.

In this case, the curia had submitted that the Rent Regulation Board had only to establish the fair rent for the palace and not for the remainder of the grounds.

Plaintiff had submitted that when the law referred to old urban tenements, it referred only to the buildings with a reasonable minimum of open surrounding space.

The remainder of the land was to be considered as a building site.

On his part the commissioner submitted that the land surrounding the palace formed a integral part of the palace and that the palace and its grounds were to be classified as one old urban tenement.

Mr Justice Sciberras declared that the manner in which premises were to be classified could not be left to the absolute discretion of one of the parties but was a matter that had to be decided upon in accordance with the law and bearing in mind the realities of the situation.

Referring to the report drawn up by the court-appointed technical expert, the court concluded that the old urban tenement in this particular case was to refer to the palace with the surrounding land measuring 3.8 metres wide all around it.

The palace grounds were also to include a portion of land measuring three metres wide in front of the palace that gave access to it.

The remainder of the land was to be classified as a building site.

The court also ordered that the compensation payable for the land classified as a building site had to be established by the Land Arbitration Board.

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