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The owner of a tract of land outside the development zone in Bidnija has been served with an enforcement notice related to a series of illegal works carried out on the site in recent months.  

Last week Lovin Malta reported that the applicant, Shaun Bonavia, as well as his father Emmanuel Bonavia, who owns the site, had submitted several applications for works on the site, including one for the relocation of a Fgura farmhouse to Bidnija. 

The latest application, for the sanctioning of illegal works, was submitted by architect Gilbert Bartolo, the brother of Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo.

Several objections were filed with the Planning Authority (PA) against the plans, including by the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage and the Environment and Resources Authority. 

Complaints were also sent to the Planning Authority about works that were ongoing without a permit. 

Enforcement notice issued weeks after illegalities reported

While the PA had informed complainants that the owner had been told to stop the works, no official enforcement notice was issued and the PA had not answered Lovin Malta’s questions by the time of publishing. 

Since the story was published, an enforcement notice was issued in relation to the works. A PA spokesperson has also gotten in touch to note that daily fines were being administered by the authority. 

According to the PA website, the enforcement notice has been “served/sent but not yet claimed”.  

“You have development without a permit consisting of: 1. The demolition of rubble boundary walls and the reconstruction of parts of them, 2. The opening of three new access points of roughly four meters each, 3. The deposition of inert material in different areas of the site, 4. The excavation and land engineering of terraced fields to form one field” reads the notice. 

While it is true that an enforcement notice has now been issued, its timing is questionable given that the illegalities were reported months ago, when they were at a stage early enough for them to be stopped. 

It appears that works specifically related to this enforcement notice have now been completed. It is unclear whether the PA will insist that the site be converted back into its original state. 

Concerns also persist about other illegalities on other parts of the site. 

ERA concerned by request to sanction abusive development

In its submissions on the sanctioning application, ERA voiced “significant environmental concerns” with the proposal. 

One concern related to the size of the rubble walls, which ERA said were too high and visually intrusive and would significantly alter the natural landscape and topography of the area and lead to “incompatibility with the wider rural characteristics”. 

“The deposition of soil without a permit, which was utilised as a pretext for the construction of an excessive boundary wall cannot be considered as a justification for such interventions,” ERA noted. 

“It also appears that the boundary wall has encroached onto the existing rocky steppe, therefore degrading and obliterating the existing habitat,” it added.  

Construction of high walls would significantly alter the natural landscape and topography of the area and lead to incompatibility with the wider rural characteristics 

ERA also raised concerns that the area where new walls and a timber gate were being proposed was intended for vehicular access, despite currently consisting of a rocky steppe. 

The authority concluded by saying it was growing “growing increasingly concerned with the malpractice of first carrying out ODZ development abusively and subsequently expecting the regulatory authorities to retroactively rubber-stamp a fait accompli”.  

The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage also noted that the high rubble walls left an impact on the area’s vistas and the sitelines of the landscape.

“Furthermore this office notes that the site proposed for development is within an area of archaeological interest, close to Roman structures as well as remains for ancient quarrying activity,” the superintendence said, adding that the existence of cultural heritage remains on the site could not be excluded.

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