Demolish sham sheep farm and prosecute responsible officials

Moviment Graffitti is calling for the immediate demolition of the sham sheep farm in Wied tal-Ħżejjen, Bidnija, a valley as yet unspoilt by construction, and for the site to be returned to its natural state at the developer’s expense.

Since the original planning application (PA/07946/18) was accepted in 2019, environmental organisations, the media and the general public have been chronicling the construction of this massive structure in the middle of an entirely rural Outside Development Zone (ODZ), featuring ecologically important freshwater habitats. Many were left baffled at how a two-storey structure, with reception areas and a swimming pool on its roof, was approved by the Planning Authority on the pretext of being a sheep farm.

Only three years after the issuing of the first permit, the thin disguise of a sheep farm has fallen off entirely. A second planning application (PA/5895/22) is now asking for this structure to be transformed into a retail outlet with guest rooms – that is, a hotel – thus putting black on white what we have known all along: this is a multi-million commercial project that illicitly took over and destroyed ODZ land.

The sheep farmer on whom the granting of the original permit was dependent is nowhere to be seen in a new application. The latest application was filed by a previously unknown company – Bidnija Farming Enterprise Ltd. – connected to a certain Dr Peter Bernard Carbonaro, a person whose name appears as director for three other companies registered in Malta which are all linked to trustee shareholding companies registered in Cyprus. The shareholder of the company and the application’s architect is Mr Konrad Bezzina. Mr Bezzina is involved in several other companies unrelated to agriculture and also served as a former member of the Building and Construction Agency’s building regulations board.

Moviment Graffitti has now filed an enforcement request with the Planning Authority demanding that the fake sheep farm be demolished and the site reverted back to its original state, at the developer’s expense, as per permit conditions.

Using deceit and lies to destroy an ecologically sensitive area for profit is an environmental crime of the highest degree. All those responsible for issuing the first permit – from the developers to the authorities and boards – should be investigated with a view to bringing them to justice for the crimes committed. It has been clear to everyone from the start that this was not a genuine sheep farm; it is impossible that those who evaluated this application did not recognise this obvious fact too. The Planning Commission that issued this permit was chaired by Perit Elizabeth Ellul, with Perit Claude Mallia and Mr Anthony Borg as members.

The sham sheep farm blighting the Bidnija valley is the epitome of the rotten planning regime in force in Malta. From dysfunctional policies to farcical authorities, the current planning system has actively sponsored the wanton destruction of our natural and urban environments. Urgent decisive action overhauling the entirety of our planning system is needed to prevent the loss of what we have left.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and are not reflective of ‘A Bird’s Eye View’ as a whole.


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