MaltaToday | 24 August 2008

NEWS | Sunday, 24 August 2008

War of the PN mayors

“That development will only take place over my dead body,” says Lija’s Nationalist mayor Ian Castaldi Paris in reply to architect Robert Musumeci’s claim that a four-storey development, a few metres away from the historic Belvedere tower, can still take place despite MEPA’s recent decision to create a buffer zone limiting all development in Transfiguration avenue to two storeys.
For Castaldi Paris it would be “completely irrational” for the authorities to allow a solitary four-storey block in the area closest to the Belvedere while precluding other residents from selling their properties to make way for similar developments in the same buffer zone.
“If the building is allowed, MEPA will expose itself to public ridicule,” Castaldi Paris told MaltaToday.
During the week workers were seen on the site earmarked for demolition but the mayor claims that architect Musumeci had informed him that the work is only aimed at stabilising a roof.
But when contacted by MaltaToday Musumeci confirmed that the work in progress is related to the permit issued by MEPA for the development of a four-storey block next to the tower.
“As things stand, work can start because the Malta Environment and Planning Authority has not issued a discontinuance order,” Musumeci told MaltaToday last week.
According to Robert Musumeci, the developers “can still proceed with the works, because the permit remains valid irrespective of any scheduling which comes into effect after a permit is issued.”
This is the only point on which Musumeci and Castaldi Paris agree. Both insist that MEPA should take a decision as soon as possible on whether to issue a discontuance order.
But Musumeci expects the permit to prevail over MEPA’s decision to schedule the area around the Belvedere, because the rule of law is guided by the general principle that “one cannot legislate retroactively.”
MEPA has so far not answered MaltaToday’s question whether it intends to annul the permit for the four-storey block after limiting development in the area to two storeys.
The only way MEPA can stop a permit already issued is either through a revocation (only applicable in case of fraud) or a discontinuance order. But in the latter case, the government will have to offer compensation to the owner.
Castaldi Paris insists that the developers can only start works at their own risk because the council has already presented an appeal to MEPA’s Appeals Board.
“I am sure that the council will win the case in front of Appeal’s Board and if any development takes place before a decision is taken, the developers will have to pull it down.”
Castaldi Paris already feels vindicated by MEPA’s decision to limit development in buffer zone around the tower to two storeys.
“We have been vindicated. This decision shows that the permit issued five days before the election should never been issued in the first place,” the mayor told MaltaToday.
Lija mayor Ian Castaldi Paris is calling on the Malta Planning Authority to immediately issue a discontinuance order to stop the development next to Belvedere, and on another development taking place next to the Malta Labour Party club.

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