A private warehouse complex that Heritage Malta is renting through a €1.2 million direct order is flawed and subject to an enforcement order issued by the planning (AP) since 2017.

The Shift revealed last week that Alfaran Trailers Maintenance and Logistics Services Ltd receives around €200,000 a year for the rental of five large garages in the industrial area of ​​Ħal Far.

The information was published in the Official Gazette, but it was unclear who the beneficiaries of the direct order were until the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation filed a freedom of information request.

Further research into the warehouses by The Shift shows that the complex contains several breaches of planning laws noted by the planning authority in an enforcement order still in force, and that the warehouses are built on public land. assigned to the Hamrun family in 2008 for use. for industrial purposes.

Agency CEO Noel Zammit went ahead anyway and last year signed a new lease to use the resort for several years. According to the deal seen by The Shift, in May 2021, Heritage Malta agreed to pay some €200,000 a year until 2029.

The warehouses were built to serve as garages for the maintenance of trailers and are not subject to a change of use permit for use as a warehouse.

The agency’s CEO has been repeatedly asked for an explanation, but has so far refused to provide one despite growing concerns over the national heritage agency’s apparent mismanagement.

On the other hand, Jose’ Herrera, the minister responsible for Heritage Malta when signing the last rental contract with Alfaran, distanced himself from the debacle.

In emails to The Shift, Herrera said the original contract for the rental of these warehouses by Heritage Malta was not concluded during his tenure and insisted he was unaware of this last contract.

When The Shift pointed out that the last contract was signed by CEO Noel Zammit in May 2021, when he was Minister of Labor for Culture, Herrera again insisted that the lease began when Owen Bonnici was minister responsible for culture.

Bonnici is again politically responsible for Heritage Malta.

Herrera also said that although Alfaran’s owners are from Hamrun, his district, he has never done business with them, saying he “didn’t even know who they are”.

CEO Noel Zammit again did not respond to questions about whether the warehouses began to be used before Herrera’s time.

According to Karl Azzopardi, the former CEO of Malta Industrial Parks, which manages the allocation of public land for industrial purposes, the area was reallocated to Alfaran in 2017, again to be used as a site for maintenance of their trailers. .

It was in 2017 that the Planning Authority pronounced its execution on several irregularities on the site.

Notice of application of the PA on the site leased by Heritage Malta

Alfaran has since filed an appeal against the enforcement order with the Environmental and Planning Review Tribunal (EPRT), which has been “hearing the case” for five years with no finding in sight.

Alfaran, through its architect David Zahra, filed a new planning application (PA7696/21) last year in an attempt to regularize their position.

Alfaran’s latest application on the warehouse complex used by Heritage Malta

Yet, in typical planning authority style, the application is still ‘being screened’ and not yet considered a full development application.

This is being used by the EPRT to postpone the hearing of Alfaran’s appeal against the 2017 Enforcement Order.

In the meantime, Heritage Malta is paying €200,000 a year to rent these warehouses from Alfaran.

Heritage Malta is already at the center of controversy for breaching public procurement rules to lease, without a tender, the courtyard of Mdina’s Natural History Museum, Palazzo Vilhena, to a private catering operator for the use as a restaurant.

Minister Owen Bonnici said it was a “market study”.

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