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MALTATODAY 9 January 2022

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12 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 9 JANUARY 2022 NEWS JAMES DEBONO MALTA'S foremost captain of high-rise development is re- questing the green light from the Planning Authority to turn a pile of rubble on Nadur's scenic Ġe- bel l-Aħmar, into a 23sq.m agri- cultural store. The proposal is being made under the pretext that Portelli, himself a registered farmer, will be reconstructing a "dilapidated" structure – in reality, he will be exploiting a loophole in the PA's rural policy that allows the re- construction of countryside ru- ins to re-establish their original use. Surprisingly, instead of shoot- ing down the application as one contributing to the formalisa- tion of land outside the develop- ment zones, or for allowing the proliferation of structures in the countryside as it regularly does, the Environment and Resources Authority gave its conditional approval. The ERA simply stated that given that the agricultural store was visible in the 1967 survey sheet, it "has no major concerns for its reconstruction" as long "as the same footprint of the original building is retained". In 2021, the PA issued a permit to Portelli's daughter Chloe for the erection of an agricultural store on a neighbouring plot of agricultural land. Subsequently, the store was not built according to the approved plans and a concrete platform was illegally developed in front of it. An application to sanction the store prompted strong objec- tions from the ERA and the Su- perintendence for Cultural Her- itage, and Portelli backtracked, with new plans that removed the extremely wide apertures, a sloping roof and concrete plat- form. These were then approved as an amendment to the original application in November 2021. Previously the site was also subject to an enforcement notice against the construction of very high rubble walls without per- mit, which were later sanctioned by the PA despite strong objec- tions by ERA and SCH. Back in 2017 the Planning Au- thority had also sanctioned a 38sq.m chapel, a 38sq.m horse stable with paddock, a sheep pan, chicken coop as well as an agricultural store already built illegally by Portelli near Ħal Sagħtrija in Żebbuġ. More then 100 objections were presented against the second store. "Taking into considera- tion that the whole project has been marred with illegalities from the very start, this appli- cation for a second agricultural store cannot but be treated with distrust," Moviment Graffitti said in one of these objections. JAMES DEBONO THE Superintendence for Cul- tural Heritage has conditional- ly given its blessing for a road that will service new apartments on a site added to development boundaries in 2006, at in-Nigret in Zurrieq. The road and residential de- velopment will result in the destruction of part of an old farming complex and a myste- rious oval structure. The SCH accepted that the demolition of an "outer room" of a farmhouse, although hav- ing "cultural value", was con- sidered as an "accretion" that can be removed in view of the need to form the road. However, the SCH also said the room's removal could on- ly be acceptable if it is subject to a planning gain of €25,000 to mitigate "the loss of historic fabric and the truncation of the space delineating the original farming complex". It also called for a redesign of the road plans to safeguard the rest of the farmhouse complex which it considers "a good ex- ample of vernacular architec- ture." The SCH referred to the pres- ence of an oval structure on the site of the proposed develop- ment but dismissed claims that this could signify the presence of a medieval structure or do- mestic use of the site in ques- tion, for which it found no ev- idence. Objectors noted the similarity of the structure to huts known as "Africana Magalia", a term originally used by Jean Quin- tin D' Autun to refer to in- habited countryside structures in his description of Malta in 1536, and used by archaeolo- gist Quentin Hughes to refer to small-sized rural dwellings. But the SCH insists that the term is a generic one which likely refers to "corbelled stone hut rather than a mature farm- house." While taking issue with the terminology used by objec- tors, the report does not refer to the structure's possible her- itage value. The construction of the road is being proposed in a zoning application by Anton Camilleri on behalf of unknown owners of the site, and is recommend- ed for approval by the PA's planning directorate. Apart from calling for a redesign of the road to protect part of the farmhouse, the SCH is also calling for further changes to the application to minimize its visual impact. ERA says yes to Portelli's second Nadur store Superintendence puts €25,000 tag on Nigret development

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