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Government blocked from retaking Fort Bingemma

Guarded by high walls, an iron gate and dogs, a man who has taken up residence at Fort Bingemma is resisting government efforts to retake possession of the historic building.

The man was the recognised tenant of the fort until the lease expired on October 8, 2009.

He has since then continued to deposit his rent money in court, arguing that he is occupying part of the fort as his ordinary residence.

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said in Parliament that the government still intends to retake possession of the fort.

He said that for the past two years, talks had been held with the tenant about an amicable settlement to separate the 'residence' from the rest of the fort.

The government's Property Division also applied for a Mepa permit to built a boundary fence, but the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage objected, since a ramp would have to be built to provide access.

Dr Gonzi said officials of the property division and the superintendence had twice been refused access to the fort. The tenant had been warned about their visit, and they found the entrance is blocked by an iron gate and guarded by dogs.

Parliamentary Secretary Jason Azzopardi was also not allowed in.

Dr Gonzi said the government was continuing to seek a settlement which would eventually lead to public access to the fort, and other actions would be taken if the tenant refused to grant access and to resist. 

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