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Illegal development at Montekristo continues

More illegal development by Polidano Brothers. The contractors were able to speed up construction because they have easy access to concrete and supplies at a factory next door. Much of this was also built illegally. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

More illegal development by Polidano Brothers. The contractors were able to speed up construction because they have easy access to concrete and supplies at a factory next door. Much of this was also built illegally. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

One of “Malta’s largest illegally developed sites” just got bigger after Polidano Brothers carried on building at the Montekristo estate, less than a year after he apologised for the inconvenience caused by the lawless sprawl at Ħal Farruġ.

Mepa enforcement officers stopped the work on Thursday after they discovered the new development next to the animal park on the Montekristo estate.

The work is a continuation of a vast illegal development that Mepa forcibly stopped in November.

Charles PolidanoCharles Polidano

Following that action, Charles Polidano, known by the nickname iċ-Ċaqnu, personally wrote to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on November 29 to “confirm that no works will be undertaken on the site in question and apologise for any inconvenience”.

Nine months later, work resumed. When contacted, Mepa CEO Johann Buttigieg said the contractor justified the development, saying he was told to develop better facilities for the animals housed by his illegal zoo.

“Obviously, that is no valid reason for illegal development. He should have made sure he had the permit for the facilities before importing the animals,” Mr Buttigieg said.

In fact, the development comes after this newspaper revealed the contractor and his brother Paul would be facing charges over the zoo itself for breaches of the Animal Welfare Act.

But Mepa sources said enforcement officers had previously caught the contractors working on the roof of a replica of the De Redin tower at the same site. Mr Buttigieg confirmed this.

He said at that point the work was minimal and the contractor demolished the addition at once.

“Then work started on these facilities. As a result, we have now asked the police to station two officers for most of the day to make sure no work is carried out and the contractor will be billed for this action.”

Before this development, Mepa was in talks over establishing a master plan for the site, in which the two sides would agree on a framework allowing the contractor to be able to apply for sanctioning on some buildings and agree to demolish others voluntarily.

The contractors have two vast areas in Ħal Farruġ that were developed illegally over the past two decades. The authority itself last year described them as “one of the largest illegal sites in Malta”.

After 2010, and substantial media pressure, Mepa started trying to halt the sprawl but was never successful. The talks over the master plan were the latest attempt in this direction.

Asked if Mepa would ditch the talks after this latest illegal development, Mr Buttigieg said the authority was ensuring that no further illegalities took place but that it would continue working on a master plan.

He argued that after so many years in which the developers had managed to build so much, it was not realistic to expect the authority to raze everything to the ground, also because there are certain buildings that “make sense”.

Nonetheless, he insisted that while talks are ongoing, the authority would still be escalating legal measures.

“There is a daily fine in place and we are currently preparing to take legal action to seize this money, which, so far has not been paid. I believe it amounts to some €50,000,” Mr Buttigieg said.

“Moreover, I am in talks with our lawyers to see if we can draw money from an umbrella guarantee of some €300,000 that had been deposited by the contractors.”

In a statement last night, the contractors complained that they were being picked on.

They pointed out that over the past year they demolished a number of buildings and cleared an area of approximately 25,000 square metres under Mepa supervision.

“Whilst understanding the authorities’ position, the management hopes the relevant permit for the application (of the buildings now developed without permit) in 2010... is issued as soon as possible.”

mmicallef@timesofmalta.com

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