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MaltaToday 10 May 2023 MIDWEEK

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NEWS 7 maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 10 MAY 2023 MATTHEW VELLA THE Public Accounts Com- mittee will request the director of prisons to allow the alleged mastermind in the assassina- tion of Daphne Caruana Galizia, Yorgen Fenech, to testify in the hearings on the NAO inquiry on the Electrogas power plant. If accepted by the prisons di- rector, it will be the first public appearance of Fenech – save for his court hearings – in a forum other than the criminal court. The PAC hearings of former chief of staff Keith Schembri had to be suspended after Schembri filed a constitutional case, claim- ing a breach of his rights when PAC chairman Darren Carabott and two Nationalist MPs filed a criminal report alleging perjury. The Speaker has since ruled that the PAC cannot resume questioning Schembri until the Constitutional Court decides on his claim. "It sets an ugly precedent," Carabott commented to PAC members upon communicating the Speaker's ruling. Government MPs Alex Muscat and Andy Ellul reacted by saying that for PAC witnesses to give information freely, they cannot be constrained by the actions of MPs, referring to Carabott's request for a criminal investiga- tion. "It is you who created this precedent," Ellul told Carabott, who attempted to cut the dis- cussion short due to the con- stitutional case being under re- view. "It would have been wiser to allow Schembri's testimony finish." Labour MP Alex Muscat said government MPs would not contest the Speaker's ruling, with the PAC proceeding to suspend Schembri's testimony. PAC wants Yorgen Fenech to testify PA defends Paola permit which envisages new receded floor on Triq Bormla JAMES DEBONO The planning authority is re- butting claims that it has ap- proved a five-storey block over- looking Triq Bormla in Paola. The street is characterised by early twentieth century town- houses built over two levels and of uniform proportions. News of the planning permit led to outrage. The PA said in a statement that, "the massing of the ap- proved project is focused on Triq il-Qalb ta' Ġesu' and not Triq Bormla as is being incor- rectly reported". A MaltaToday analysis of the submitted plans confirms that that the bulk of the five-storey development will impact Triq il-Qalb ta' Gesu, a street char- acterised by buildings of differ- ent heights, in close vicinity to Gnien il-Perit Dom Mintoff. But the approved plans also foresee a new receded floor that will be erected on top of the façade of the building overlook- ing Triq Bormla. A streetscape plan suggests that the extra floor will some- what disrupt the uniformity of the street, considering that most other buildings consist of two levels and a washroom. Moreover, considering that the height difference between the two streets is one of approx- imately one floor as confirmed by the PA in its statement, a five-storey development in Triq il-Qalb ta' Ġesu is bound to have some impact on Triq Bormla. Unfortunately, in this case, no photomontages have been pre- sented to assess the impact of the development from different viewpoints. In its statement the PA insist- ed that the "streetscape in Triq Bormla in Paola will remain that of two storeys." But the PA ac- knowledged that a receded floor will be added on Triq Bormla, insisting that this is "permissi- ble in all UCAs". The case officer report which recommended approval ac- knowledged that the setback floors in Triq Bomla can only be permitted if there are existing "commitments" on one or both sides of the site. Moreover, the additional structures must also be in line with existing commit- ments. The case officer had concluded that the new set back floor was in line with "the surrounding commitments and was "some- what justified since a consider- able portion of the site was not within the urban conservation area." It remains unclear what com- mitments the case officer was referring to considering that although the surrounding prop- erties have a washroom none have a penthouse level. On its part the Superintend- ence for Cultural Heritage had initially expressed concern on the lack of an adequate transi- tion between the development being proposed within the de- velopment zone along Triq il-Qalb ta' Gesu and that pro- posed in the UCA along Triq Bormla. But following minor changes to plans, it concluded that the proposed higher volumes were contained to the footprint out- side the Urban Conservation Area. The PA also correctly notes that the site was already com- mitted for a similar develop- ment by a permit issued in 2007 and renewed in 2016. The Authority approved the development of one-bedroom studio apartments because the site falls within a Student Prior- ity Area, once it is in the vicinity of MCAST. The permit was issued to Sil- van Mizzi on behalf of Trivium Limited, a company owned by Joseph Portelli, Silvan Mizzi and Kurt Polidano.

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