Residential propety

Corinthia flattens Hal Ferh complex even before residential villa permit is decided

Corinthia Group has flattened a plot of land at the unique location of Ħal Ferħ (Għajn Tuffieħa) although it has not yet received planning authority permission for the development of 25 residential villas.

According to the planning authority, the application is still in the selection process, which means that the application is still not considered complete and “may not even reach the stage of a complete application”.

Meanwhile, the old tourist complex of Ħal Ferħ was turned into rubble.

The Shift has asked the planning authority to explain how come demolition work has been going on for months while the permit has yet to be approved for the so-called Corinthia Oasis project. A spokesperson said the work was being carried out on the basis of a previous permit (for a different use) issued for the same area in 2010 and renewed in 2019.

According to permit number PA4906/10, the hotel chain has been given the green light to build a timeshare resort – a project the group abandoned years ago.

The area where Corinthia wants to build villas has already been razed.

Corinthia Group provided the same response, citing the old timeshare permit as justification for the ongoing demolition work.

By demolishing the entire complex, turning a prime tourist area into an eyesore, Corinthia compromised the planning process.

“A serious company would first wait for the full development permit for their plans and then start work. Instead they found a loophole which, although legal, is forcing the hands of the Planning Authority – now they have no choice but to approve their permit. It seems the Pisanis (the family that owns Corinthia Group) are no different from other cowboy developers,” industry sources said.

Work on the actual construction of the new Oasis project is not expected to begin until a new permit is issued. Still, the area now looks like a construction site, though Corinthia says only demolition and rubble hauling work is underway.

Corinthia’s deal with the government on the luxury residential project hit the headlines in September after The Shift reported on the controversial amount of compensation paid by the hotel group to turn former public land into luxury residential villas. .

Originally, the Hal Ferh complex, a former British military barracks converted into a resort by Air Malta, was sold by the government to Island Hotels Ltd for redevelopment as a timeshare resort. The deed stipulated that this land was to be used for tourist purposes only.

However, shortly after Corinthia purchased Island Group, formerly owned by the Zahra family, Alfred Pisani (one of the founders of Corinthia Group) changed his plans for the area and abandoned the timeshare project.

Alfred Pisani and Joseph Muscat

Alfred Pisani and former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat

Instead, he entered into discussions with the government for part of the land to be used to build 25 luxury residential villas for public sale, greatly increasing the commercial value of the project.

By accepting this agreement, the government asked Corinthia to pay compensation of around 10.3 million euros – considered extremely low at current property market prices, especially given the unique location of the land in question. .

Further investigations by The Shift revealed a glitch in the deal, which stipulated Corinthia only had to pay 10% of the €10.3 million.

The rest, over 9 million euros, is to be paid over 10 years and only once the villas have been sold, with Corinthia offloading the payment onto those who buy the property and minimizing risk to the business.

This means that while Corinthia will raise tens of millions of euros, it will only contribute a little over a million euros to the public coffers.