Friday 22 November 2013 REPORT by MALTATODAY
Portomaso residents file for injunction against appeals tribunal decision
Residents ask court for prohibitory injunction against decision to award Tumas Group permit to construct 46 new villas
Portomaso residents have filed a prohibitory injunction against a decision by an appeals tribunal to overturn a refusal to build villas on an artificial lagoon at the Portomaso marina.
The residents, represented by lawyer Ian Spiteri Bailey, are protesting a decision by MEPA’s new ‘part-time’ appeals board, appointed by the Labour government in July, to issue a permit for the Tumas Group to construct 46 villas on an artificial lagoon at Portomaso. They are asking the court to stop MEPA from issuing the permit within 30 days, as requested by the appeals tribunal.
The controversial extension to Portomaso had been turned down by the MEPA board on 26 April 2012, after chairman Austin Walker used his casting vote. The board members had been tied with six votes in favour and six against, after a four-hour debate held at the Mediterranean Conference Centre.
The new appeals aboard that decided to overturn the MEPA board decision is composed of Labour candidate and lawyer Simon Micallef Stafrace, architect and Freeport chairman Robert Sarsero, and MEPA official Martin Saliba.
At both stages, the main bone of contention was a clause in the previous Portomaso permit of 1996 which stated that no further extension or development could be carried out in the area.
However, the legal representatives and the architects of George Fenech’s Tumas Group, who want to develop the land, argued that the local plan approved 10 years later included this particular site as suitable for development.
On that occasion Labour’s representative on the MEPA board, Roderick Galdes – today parliamentary secretary for animal welfare and agriculture – had voted in favour of the project.
The new appeals board has effectively revoked the 2012 decision and ordered MEPA to issue the controversial permit within 30 days.
The area in question, described as the “southern ecological zone”, was deemed
Portomaso residents objecting to the project argued that the Development Planning Act states that no development plan can reverse or even modify the terms and conditions of a development permission.
The Tumas Group also forms part of Gem Holdings, a joint venture with the Gasan Group, which acts as the Maltese partner in the Electrogas consortium that will construct Malta’s new 200MW LNG-powered power plant.